THURSDAY EVENING ZAZEN AT CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER ENDS ON FEBRUARY 26
With countless watches, warnings and advisories for significant windchill values in the mid-atlantic and heavy snow for the eastern seaboard, I began thinking about my own ability to weather stormy times in my life
A long time mentor shared this story from Pema Chodron. He retold her story of how ravens in Nova Scotia frolic in the hurricane force winds. [Ravens and wild fox are abundant there!] The birds hold onto the branches as long as possible and then letting go, getting tossed about by fierce winds, turning it all into a game. They even peck at each other’s feet when sensing that another is holding tightly onto the branch. “Most importantly they find joy in the play of the cold winds.”
How do we find joy in the darkest of times? Here we are wondering what to do, whether to stay or go. Guess we’re all looking for something …a new job, relationship, better salary, larger home, new group, new place. Digging a bit deeper, a whole barrage of feelings arise such as anger, dissatisfaction,worthlessness, loneliness, and restlessness. Here we are, searching for something, anything to feel different than what’s coming up. Or maybe, we are willing to settle into the thick of it?
There’s a story in Opening the Hand of Thought by Uchiyama Roshi. An American business man traveling all the way to Japan to visit Roshi says, “I have plenty of money and a wonderful family, but for some reason that I can’t explain, about ten years ago I began to feel a terrible loneliness in my life.” Then Roshi replies with something very poignant. “Did it ever occur to you that this feeling of dissatisfaction or emptiness might be caused by your searching for the value, the basis or recognition of your existence only in things outside yourself.”
Ten years of feeling a fearsome loneliness. Yikes! How do we see this in our own lives? Why do we look to things outside of ourselves for comfort? Can we actually settle into our hearts and with ‘engaged’ practice, resolve what is it to weather the storm?
An interesting point here is how do we free ourselves from habitual patterns of looking outward. How do we jump in, get our arms around it all and see right through it. At times during our lives when it’s really turbulent, each of us in our own way at some time, relies on things outside of ourselves for comfort and support. Often we’re get lost in the storm missing the point that right here is where it’s happening.
Finally, when we give up pursing things outside of ourselves, give up figuring things out, the gate opens. Here’s the invitation, an opportunity to settle. We can be here and meet ourselves just as we are. Everything is fully alive and we penetrate everywhere. This is how we expand beyond conceptual understanding and open the door to clarity, kindness and mercy towards ourselves and others.
When we see, truly see, what is going on, we are allowing the world in which we live to touch our hearts. When seeing the kindness of others, we become increasingly grateful, more accepting, resilient, and flexible. We are creating space within our hearts for ourselves and those we meet. We are everything that we experience. The whole world becomes the koan.
Once again, I am reminded by my dharma friend from Shasta Abbey that we don’t need to search anywhere else for clarity nor put aside what we have and look elsewhere for what we don’t have. We can settle down.
Fortunately, we can weather the storms through our own hearts and find joy even when our feet are being ‘pecked.’