Gardening

To be not who I thought I was, but who I became.

Worldly life, keen-edged chisel.  And I, the chiseled,

a garden tended by a master gardener.

How much lovelier now than it was

before the passing of fire and flood, before the pruning.

 

Mother’s Day

C.M. Rivers

With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about my mom even more than usual.  I can’t believe she flew from the world 25 years ago.  To all those who still have their mother: love her, forgive her, tell her how you feel, ask her to tell you something you don’t already know about her life.

This poem first appeared in 2014, in The Wayfarer Journal of Contemplative Literature.  Love you mom.

Knapsack

It’s a shame

I don’t have the patience to garden,

my mother being who she was,

doing what she did with sunflowers

and lemon balm.

And with me being who I am-

a fine cook responsible

for so many glowing embers,

so many bubbling broths.

The memory of her is light enough

to take with me wherever I go,

propelled by the sea breeze,

pushed along by intimate hands,

drawn down muddy roads

slashed with the watercolors

of…

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Many Rhythms

You have known many takers, known many givers, walked many pathways, crossed many rivers.

You have known many husbands, lovers and wives.  You have died many deaths, lived many lives.

You have been a seeker, you have been a finder, you have found the forgotten and remained a reminder.

You have worn many costumes and fanned a few fires.  You’ve tidied the mess and untangled the wires.

You have been the wild, been the idle, swung up in the saddle and borne the bridle.

You are the gardener as well as the flower.  You are eternity and also the hour.

You have written the song, invented the singer.  You are a happiness giver, sadness bringer.

You have climbed the wall, slept on the floor.  All this you have done, and more.

All these things, I too may be.  All these things, I too might see,

though it’s true we come from different places, though we look through eyes on different faces.

Many roads, one destination.  Many rhythms, one vibration.

 

Path of Least Resistance

Water takes the path of least resistance.  A tree, a leaf, a human, all possess a central artery to supply fluid to channels, veins.

We are cells, tissues, bone, blood – but mostly water.  This world is our body and our body the world.  The sky and sea are our minds.  Clouds and waves, our thoughts.

A glimmer of clarity, a fresh clean insight, a burning brightness leaves me feeling as if I looked at the sun.  And by “me”, I mean “you”, I mean all of us.  I mean the place of stillness, the one we keep inside, a source of renewable energy waiting to be accessed, directed.

The world will simply go on being itself in all its change and sameness, and we must eventually go on, away from human reflection, through the gate that only opens from the inside, moving out of the field of linear time into the river of eternity, along the path of least resistance. 

Spiritual beings, living in physical bodies, in a material world.

Whirlwind: How The Heart Is Wiser Than The Mind

There are times when our thoughts sweep us away.  We get caught up in the whirlwind of the mind’s magnetic pull, and something needs to happen to reel us back to the moment we’re actually in and what is happening there.  It could be something small: we have forgotten the bread in the oven, or we’re stopped at a traffic light, being honked at because it has turned from red to green.  It could be something heavy that stops us in our tracks: someone has passed away unexpectedly, or our spouse wants a divorce.

Miniscule or massive, either way we are being brought back, slapped, woken up, snapped out of auto-pilot mode, our train of endless thought barreling down the tracks with no conductor at the wheel.  When we take up a practice that requires discipline and presence such as yoga, meditation, or simply deep-breathing, we start to cultivate our awareness.  Cultivating our awareness leads to the realization of just how much power our thoughts and emotions have over us.

We slowly begin to be less eager to always be doing something, to fill up every waking moment with whatever meets the approval of our mind and its current content.  We start to explore the space in our mind instead of the content of our mind, and in doing this we begin to find peace.  Stepping out of the arena of incessant thought and obsessive emotion is like stepping out of a whirlwind.  Part of us is always still in it, but we can learn to be less swept away by it.

This is how the heart is wiser than the mind.  When we say “I realized I had stopped listening to myself”, we are usually referring to our hearts, not our heads.  When we let the content of our minds become less important, we give ourselves the gift of working towards peace.  Take the time, make the time, take stock of what’s in our hearts, slow down, pause, consider, notice.  Then, too, we can start to be of greater service to others because we are truly taking care of ourselves first.  Without nourishing our own hearts and spirits first, our potential to spread joy and healing to others will likely be limited, interrupted.

What we decide we “know” becomes just another set of shackles within the cage of the ego, if we hold the knowledge rigidly.  The mind would have us follow it, mile after mile, down its many roads: desire, fear, justification, assumption, grudge, addiction.  It wants desperately to hold on, to feel like it knows something, to be right about things, to endlessly nurse its wounds, to rave about all the sources of its pain and hurt.

If we hold the knowledge loosely, though, we can simultaneously benefit from it and release it.  We can make our minds flexible, make our beliefs pliable, liberate ourselves from all the things we were once so certain about, the stuff we believed to comprise the sum total of our life’s potential, our very identity.  We can open doors, remove blockages, step out of the whirlwind and return to our awareness: simple, calm, uncluttered, lucid with breathtaking clarity.

And the heart knows that to be at peace, it must ignore the ravings of the mind.  When we learn to listen better to our heart, our heart learns to stop listening to the mind.  We lead with our heart and we see that the rest just sort of takes care of itself.  The movie of our life begins to change in tonality and theme, because once we accept ourselves for who we are, we allow our projector to change.  And that’s a beautiful thing.

 

 

Chogyam Trungpa’s Saddle Analogy

I just love this passage from Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chogyam Trungpa.  To arrive at this place he describes, within one’s self, must be to arrive at a place of deep, deep peace.      

“In the saddle, as long as you have good posture and a good seat, you can overcome any startling or unexpected moves your horse makes.  So the idea of the saddle is taking a good seat in your life.  

You belong here.  You are one of the warriors in this world.  So even if unexpected things happen, good or bad, right or wrong, you don’t exaggerate them.  You come back to your seat in the saddle and maintain your posture in the situation.  

The warrior is never amazed by anything.  If someone comes up to you and says ‘I’m going to kill you right now’, you are not amazed.  If someone says they are going to give you a million dollars, you think ‘so what’.  

Assuming your seat in the saddle at this level is achieving inscrutability, in the positive sense.  It is also taking your seat on the earth.

Once you take your seat on the earth, you don’t need witnesses to validate you.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

 

 

Depth Perception

Turning ourselves inside out takes courage, and a willingness to accept ourselves as we are without blurring the lines of what-is with the stories we tell ourselves.  Transformation is difficult because what the ego labels as “truth” in any given moment is subject to change.

The mind has a way of taking you down whatever road it finds most comfortable – in other words, whatever mirror reflects the ego’s current beliefs, that’s the mirror it looks at.  The ego must surround itself with those reflections in order to strengthen and qualify its current version of the truth, its version of what is real.  It’s as if the mind picks up a handful of – well, whatever it can get hold of – and calls it “the truth”, labels it “the world”, classifies it as “the way things are”.

Yet it seems that truth is highly subjective.  One person’s truth might contain grains of another person’s truth, or fragments of a larger truth, or be shared among large groups of people.  But any one person’s individual version of truth cannot help but be small, narrow and limited, because as individuals we cannot help relating all information back to ourselves somehow.  We are unable to perceive things as anyone other than ourselves, and we cannot process information with any perception other our own.  Not to mention the fact that our field of experience is a field of opposites because we live in a dualistic world.

No one’s truth has anything to do with anyone else’s, and yet we are all headed for the same ultimate, inevitable truth of death.  As Prince sang in his song Controversy in 1981: “life is just a game, we’re all just the same”.

So, can we not be a ghost of ourselves?  Because all the ghost does is forever haunt the same old unresolved house of all the thoughts, emotions, and beliefs we once had.  Resolving emotions doesn’t mean abandoning the house, though – it means repairing it before you move out, fixing it up better than it was, and then leaving it behind like an insect larva shedding its exoskeleton so it can grow and assume a new form.

To loosen our grip on what we feel so certain is the truth would be to allow ourselves to change, to become “unstuck”, to actually go ahead and love the hardest person there is to love: ourselves.  And instead of playing it safe and always only being one version of ourselves, we may as well be all of it: our whole self, every part that’s ever been, and every part still to be discovered.  Could it be possible to make contact with the deepest parts of ourselves?

It’s a scary prospect, a stone our controlling ego would rather leave unturned.  We may not meet the world’s approval of what we find there.  We may be judged, disliked, even hated by those who choose the easy path of judgment over the strenuous path of understanding.  Why take ourselves to an uncomfortable – painful, even – place, and try to stay there?  The mind would much rather lounge in the warm glow of synesthesia – a stimulating confusion of the senses – than to broaden its understanding of itself.

Yet it is possible to open more fully.  Go on now.  Shine a light in the darkest corners.