August 28, 2010 § 16 Comments
Welcome to my 100th blog post! Very recently, we’ve been talking about breathing, and about the beautiful experience that comes over us sometimes, especially in nature–wanting to just be in the present moment with the in breath and the out breath, knowing and accepting that we are part of a great shimmering whole of life. In those moments, like my moment watching the wind make waves on Lake Ontario, it’s not hard to allow that there is a greater Presence behind all our striving. But that beautiful, sun-dappled experience inevitably inspires an answering call. Breathing in the beauty of being in the moment, we wish to be our true selves from now on–to express our true heart’s desire. No more doing what we don’t want to do! And so it begins again, that striving to be, not to just be carried along passively by life, but to know we are alive. I travelled a long way from that rocky coastline where I sat breathing because I wanted to draw closer to the flame of life. And then I came back again, wishing to draw closer to the roots.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, is it nobler to try to be or not to try? It is better to seek to accept the slings and arrow and the 1,000 natural shocks that life throws at you. Or to take arms against the sea. Professor Harold Bloom of Yale and many books told me (as I rolled down Rt. 84, listening to my “Portable Professor”) that Shakespeare and brilliant Hamlet knew as well as any seeker on any spiritual path that a person stands little chance against an ocean, which is bound to keep on rolling in. He made the intriguing point that Hamlet is like a preternaturally aware character dropped into the wrong play–given the lowly, bloody task of revenge rather than the loftier, more suitable job of discerning great cosmological forces. Hamlet and Shakespeare knew the nature of life–that currents turn us awry, that there is a divinity that shapes our ends, try plan and act as we may. I’m no Hamlet. I was given no great or doomed task, just the vague persistent twin desires to be, to go out and make something of myself, and the desire not to be, to be no-self, to breathe, to come home to the present moment and the whole.
How can a person reconcile this? When I interviewed Dharma teacher Gina Sharpe (mentioned a few blog posts back) she spoke of equanimity. In Buddhism equanimity is one of the sublime emotions, the ground of wisdom and compassion. The Pali word for it is “upekkha,” which means “to look over.” Gina said this means observing the scene of a moment or a scene or a person so clearly that we see the big picture. I discovered that a second Pali word is also used to describe equanimity: “tatramajjihattata.” Trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? It’s a fusion of root words that fused together mean “to stand in the middle of all this.” It means maintaining our balance in the midst of wild life and outrageous fortune. It means being fully here and fully at home in midst of a Truth that is always moving, always now and now and now.
Thank you for reading this unfolding blog, friends. It’s wonderful to meet you here.