We watched Ken Burns documentary on Mark Twain last night. I highly recommend it. It is beautifully done, and transmits Twain's love and appreciation of life. It also shows the other side of him. He was a passionate man, and so, he held and celebrated the depths and the heights. He also took responsibility for others, in a way that a therapist today would probably give him some ease around, though it is hard to visualize Twain or Clemons in therapy. His heart is in his books.
The beauty in this show is amazing. It is worth it for the sunsets. The photography is transcendent, and the scenes uplifting and sobering.
I do feel myself in need of a visit to the Mississippi River and his home in Connecticut.
I gained an even greater awareness around the hymn that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is. I guess I had not realized how important this book was for bringing the southern and black voice into literature. I was transfixed for the whole 228 minutes, and am still vibrating to the rhythm of it. I think we forget how tough life was in those times, how many people died in a person's life. It seems to me, we are more sheltered that way, or maybe it is just my experience. Certainly, it is a beautiful love story between Samuel Clemens and his wife.
At the fund-raiser for Spirit Rock, we were each given a lovely little packet of ritual cards. The one that strikes me today is titled Visual. It says:
"Build a stone circle in your garden. View it as a place of creating wholeness and balance in your life."
I love that, and see circles in my mind all over my yard. Now, I am trying to decide where to put one or two, and I need to gather some stones.
As part of the Sensory Awareness study group, I committed to 20 minutes a day of "sensing." Now, I love that, and yet, as it becomes something on my list, I find myself balking at giving myself something so pleasurable and leading to ease. I must admit I am aware of it throughout the day, and, have felt the difference, and I feel this place of guilt as though I am not fulfilling my commitment with a clear 20 minutes each day.
I speak with Lee today, the leader, and she points out that it is important that I do honor the 20 minutes. She then suggests I could do it ten minutes in the morning, and ten minutes in the evening. How do I wake up? How does breath come in? What wants to stretch? At night, how do I meet the bed? How do I let go of the day and transfer to a place of lying on the bed, and preparation for sleep?
Last night I decided to again read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I know that each breath is a dipping into that, a living and dying, a receiving and letting go. Coincidentally, this morning Lee read a passage to me from the book. I will see if I can find it and place it here, but the gist is how easy this can be.
When water in a glass or lake is still, the particles fall, and the water is clear.
May today bring each of us stillness and clarity, which leads to a richer mulch of mud in which to anchor the lotus flower as it rises and greets.
Though I am not finding the words that Lee read to me this morning, I am finding other wonderfully inspiring words. I highly recommend the book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.
From the book:
Freda Naylor, a doctor who courageously kept a diary as she died of cancer, wrote:
I have had experiences which I never would have had, for which I have to thank the cancer. Humility, coming to terms with my own mortality, knowledge of my inner strength, which continually surprises me, and more things about myself which I have discovered because I have had to stop in my tracks, reassess and proceed.
Yes, when we are sick, we are aware of impermanence, and, in that, very present. Now, at times, I return to that place of thinking I have "forever." I think that is where discontent may rest.
Perhaps, you already know this story, but it is a good one to re-visit.
An old frog lived his whole life in a dank well. One day a frog from the sea paid him a visit.
"Where do you come from?" asked the frog in the well.
"From the great ocean," he replied.
"How big is your ocean?"
"You mean about a quarter of the size of my well here?"
"Bigger? You mean half as big?"
"No, even bigger."
"Is it ... as big as this well?"
"There's no comparison."
"That's impossible. I've got to see this for myself."
They set off together. When the frog from the well saw the ocean, it was such a shock that his head just exploded into pieces.
Big smile. It works for me.
Sogyal Rinpoche says that when he meditates, he is inspired by this poem by Nyoshul Khenpo.
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought,
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
I have a CD of these words. I am realizing now there might be a way to have it play here, though then, I might have to unbind some of the stones of my well. : )
We'll see. Joy to you!!
There is no place on earth where death cannot find us - even if we constantly twist our heads about in all directions as in a dubious and suspect land ... If there were any way of sheltering from death's blows - I am not the man to recoil from it ... But it is madness to think that you can succeed ....
Men come and they go and they trot and they dance, and never a word about death. All well and good. Yet when death does come - to them, their wives, their children, their friends - catching them unawares and unprepared, then what storms of passion overwhelm them, what cries, what fury, what despair! ...
To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind that death ... We do not know where death awaits us: so let it wait for us everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.
Life and death are of great importance.
The blossoming of the great lotus
- Soseki Natsume
Wanderer, there is no path. You lay a path in walking.
Antonio Machado -
Because I am a member of California Poet's in the Schools, I receive their poetry anthology. I would like to present two poems that speak to me. The first is by a seventh grader and the second is by a sixth grader.
I come from Afghanistan
I come from a country
where everyone worries about war
A place where hunger
drought, sickness and death
are an everyday thing
- like brushing your teeth
a place where people
do not think about how
they look or what's in style
but how to make enough money
and if they'll survive until tomorrow
Sometimes I feel like an erupting volcano
burning everything in its path
angry at people's selfishness
a wildfire burning until nothing's left to burn
yet sometimes I feel calm
a stream on a sunny day.
My life is like a kaleidoscope
not knowing what color, shape, or size
the next picture will be.
grade 7, The Charter School of San Diego, San Diego County
Samaiyah Vedder, Classroom Teacher
Johnnierenee Nelson, Poet-Teacher
Hope is a wise monk
meditating on a clear silent hill
bald and peaceful, seeking
answers, asking himself
many questions, wanting
an answer to stopping wars.
Grade 6, John Muir Middle School, Alameda County
Judy Rubin, Classroom Teacher
Kristin Palm, Poet-Teacher
I am clearing off my desk today, this cloudy November day, that ushers us into winter.
I come across this poem, Thirst, by Mary Oliver, an epilogue to her book Thirst. We are entering the time of rain, and yet, does it quench our thirst? I hope so. There are many ways to fulfill what we need. Drink!
Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying,
SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES
The other writes back triumphantly,
GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES
I enjoy watching Tiger and Bella and seeing what I can learn. When they sniff something out, their tail is involved. Tiger likes to bring leaves into the house. He carries one leaf at a time into the house and then bats it about. I wonder about that. Why does he bring it in to bat, and why is it so important that it be a leaf? There are plenty of other items he could bat. Is it why we bring nature into our homes to decorate? This is the time of year when we fill our homes with pumpkins, Indian corn, and gourds for Thanksgiving, and trees and evergreen vines at Christmas. Is it something innate?
I also notice that Bella usually has her eyes closed when she washes herself. Her eyes are closed as she wets her paw and brings it down over her face, and as, she holds her tail between her paws and licks and sucks it. She looks so completely involved. Meditation on washing tail. I will image the same. It works for me.
Now, Bella licks Tiger, and, then, herself. She works with the same zeal. I wonder if there is any difference for her, when cleansing Tiger or herself. They are siblings, so, there is that. They sometimes seem as one, though their personalities, responses, and darings are very different. It just seems that when one of them perceives washing as needed, the cleanse and comfort begin.