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


an invitation to extreme creativity

If creativity is radical discontinuity in a pattern of thought, then going on retreat is an invitation to extreme creativity.

Retreat is radical discontinuity in a pattern of being.

It’s not so much a movement towards anything, although it might it might involve wandering in unknown places or bunkering down in a metaphoric cave.  It’s more of a movement away from the known life with all its impositions, distractions and habitude.

As the disappearing Dharma teacher said – it’s a total commitment to awakening.  Not just in little glimpses, but in rock solid steadiness.

You will know when you’re ready and you must go.  There won’t be a second thought.  You won’t be driven by your mind or even your heart and certainly not by your feelings for they are the most fickle of all.

You’ll be driven by Grace, by a sweet and unquestionable imperative that will shock you and your N & D.  Resisting the call is possible but the consequences to health and sanity are dire.

When the invitation comes, grab it, beloved.  Park your procrastination into long-term storage and walk, empty, into the arms of Life.

.

The Journey

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

.

the Buddha’s last instruction

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal – a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire –
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

~ Mary Oliver, House of Light

.