Why I Wake Early

Why I Wake Early

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety -

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light -
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

- Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Mary Oliver

The thwarted flow of love

The thwarted flow of love

On Monday nights at Spirit Rock (an insight meditation center just north of San Francisco), people gather for a group meditation and a talk by a rotating cast of dharma teachers.  Their talks, along with many others, are available for free at Dharma Seed - a true treasure chest of inspiration and Buddhist teachings.

Last night, it was Rick Hanson who taught.   This is his talk: Love Freely.  It had a number of lovely moments (including the story of the Gorilla Buddha), but it was his opening story that I want to share:

When I was in my early 20′s, probably about 22, 23, I lived with some other people in a house inVenice Beach down in southern California where I grew up.  And we rented out the front room of this house to a woman who lived next door who was a Rolfer, Rolfer being a kind of very deep tissue body work, structural integration. And this was back in the mid 70s and then Rolfing was a kind of no pain, no gain sort of orientation.  And we’d be sitting in the living room we’d be hearing people screaming literally, “Stop, please stop, I can’t…” Now Rolfing has evolved and I’ve had millions of sessions and variations of other types of deep tissue body work and I’m a major fan of it and I’m not trying to scare anybody away, but at the time I was pretty frightened.  

So I was getting ready to go through the series and the fifth session has to do with opening up the abdomen, the abdominal area. And at this point I’d had enough experience in the potential human movement and emotional release work that I thought ‘Oh my God, all my stuff, my sadness, my anger, my pain, my fear, my misery, uuuuhhg, is all gonna get released by this deep tissue work and – great – what a good idea.” So that was my orientation going into this session: kind of freaking out.

Well she starts to work on me and, if you’ve ever done this kind of work, it’s deep, it’s intense.  It approaches pain sometimes.  Sometimes it goes over that line.  So she’s working on me deeply and then Mira, who’s a very down to earth, kind of basic, not a very fairy kind of person – she moves to the other side of the table and she’s just standing there.  And at the same time I start kind of feeling something really interesting is happening.  So she’s standing there basking there at the foot of the table and I start feeling flowing through me, releasing, tremendous amounts of – not pain, not sadness, not grief, not shame, or worthlessness – but vast amounts of LOVE flowing freely out of me.  And Mira literally felt for her it was a very unusual experience as if  there was a light, a warmth and energy just kind of coming of of me.  

And I realized, in part, that what had happened over the years, in the war with my mother, that the one weapon I had was to withhold love.  So what was suppressed in me, primarily, was not so much anger, shame, or sadness, although i definitely had some of that, but the big bulk of it was withheld love.  And Mira opened the dam, as it were, and there was a dam-burst of love that came flowing freely  out of me.

And since then I’ve reflected many times on how, in many ways, one of the greatest forms of suffering is thwarted contribution,  thwarted flow of love. And I’ve also reflected on the teachings of many sources that love is our nature, love is very woven into our nature, and its not a matter of muscularly cranking up love, but more, unleashing it, unpacking it, disentangling the restraints upon it.”

photo 2 photo 4

Naming love too early…

Naming love too early

A friend sent me this, and in it lies an important lesson about the possibility of love:

“Most of our heartbreak comes from attempting to name who or what we love and the way we love, too early in the vulnerable journey of discovery. We can never know in the beginning, in giving ourselves to a person, to a work, to a marriage or to a cause, exactly what kind of love we are involved with. When we demand a certain specific kind of reciprocation before the revelation has flowered completely we find our selves disappointed and bereaved and in that grief may miss the particular form of love that is actually possible but that did not meet our initial and too specific expectations. Feeling bereft we take our identity as one who is disappointed in love, our almost proud disappointment preventing us from seeing the lack of reciprocation from the person or the situation as simply a difficult invitation into a deeper and as yet unrecognizable form of affection. The act of loving itself, always becomes a path of humble apprenticeship, not only in following its difficult way and discovering its different forms of humility and beautiful abasement but strangely, through its fierce introduction to its many astonishing and different forms, where we are asked continually and against our will, to give in so many different ways, without knowing exactly, or in what way, when or how, the mysterious gift will be returned.”

January Thoughts © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press

Caterpillars about to become butterflies

Caterpillars about to become butterflies

There is this paragraph from the Spring 2014 Tricycle (The Buddhist Review) article about Ittetsu Nemoto, the Japanese Daizenji Priest who works on suicide prevention:

“People who are in crisis and feel that they want to die have had many negative experiences.  In actuality, I think that they have become full to the brim with accumulated experiences and ways of thinking, and they are on the verge of a sudden transformation.  They are like caterpillars about to become butterflies, about to take flight, but because it is painful they try to suppress the pain with medicine, and they often believe something bad is happening.  But I think that the self that has taken them through life up till now is in the process of being killed, and a new self, their real self, is being born.”

Hard stuff for those whose loved ones did not survive.  There was an article on Ittetsu Nemoto also published in The New Yorker last summer.


The video above (which has been around quite a while, but which I do not tire of) has little to do with this excerpt from Anne Lamott’s spiritual memoir Traveling Mercies.  But then again, maybe it does.

She’s talking about helping her terminally-ill friend prepare for her sister’s arrival:  “…we had just fashioned a guest room for her sister, who was coming in from Italy to take care of her.  She’d been up and around all morning, trying out the guest bed here and there, putting it near the window, wanting the sun to fall on her sister just so.”

Wanting the sun to fall on her sister just so.