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[A writing prompt at Imaginary Gardens With Real Toads asks us to take a poem and write a matching poem, replacing each word with a synonym or word that sounds or is spelled similarly. I am posting it on this same page, to make it easier for those commenting. Feel free to skip the prose introduction. I know time is in short supply:)]
Yesterday my copy of the Shambala Sun arrived, so last night, in bed before I fell asleep, I eagerly browsed through its pages. I am not a Buddhist, I am not really anything, but there is a lot that I love and admire in Buddhism, and the Dalai Lama is one of my favorite human beings. (I saw him, in Vancouver, a year ago at the Peace Summit. Being in the same building with him, seeing him walk out onto the stage, was one of the highlights of my life, a gift I gave my soul, which needed it badly at the time.)
Perhaps I believe in everything, in spirituality rather than any one religion. There is truth in every religion, but the discords and differences that create such distress in the world, when what we need to focus on is our samenesses - our humanity - bother me, as does any one belief system that says "this is the only way." There are as many paths as can be dreamed or imagined, and each of us makes our own way along the one that feels most true, hopefully remaining respectful of others' rights to do the same.
I was happy to see Jack Kornfield's face on the cover of the magazine. The article inside features his new book, The Wise Heart. I've been reading Jack's books for years. He has made an amazing journey. When Viet Nam was raging, he volunteered for the Peace Corps, asking to be shipped to a Buddhist country. Sent to Thailand, he made his way to a remote and impoverished region of the jungle near the Laotian border, where he heard about an American monk living in the ruins of a temple. Finding the young American named Sudhao, he also found his teacher, Ajahn Chah, and began to study. Later, he took a year-long retreat with a Burmese master named Mahasi Sayadaw, who offered a method for attaining states of meditative absorption, called Jhanas.
Meditating for eighteen hours a day, Jack broke through to subtle realms of awareness that he describes as "the particle physics of consciousness".
"My mind became so still," Jack said. "I could see thoughts not only when they arose, but before they arose, like that feeling when you're about to burp. My body would dissolve into twenty kinds of light - light like the full moon, light like your body dispersing into fireflies.
"Then I went through stages where there were ten thousand grains of sensation in every instant of consciousness, where the smallest movement of your arm was like the shifting of a sand dune - all those little particles arising and passing out of emptyness." Through this process, Jack attained what the elders call "high equanimity".
When Jack returned to America in 1972, he tried to maintain the life of a Thai monk. But doing alms rounds in the city in his robes and refusing to handle money made life difficult. At last, with sadness, he found a temple to conduct his disrobing ceremony in. He wept as he divested himself of his robes. "I was leaving behind a simplicity, a commitment to dharma with every fibre of my being, that was truly beautiful. It was the right thing to do, but it was a loss."
Kornfield, along with several others, eventually opened a dharma center in Massachussetts and, ten years later, built Spirit Rock, a residential retreat center, in the San Geronimo Valley on the West Coast.
Anyway, (long prologue), I went to sleep with these words swirling in my brain, and dreamed I lost my purse, with some cash saved for my dog's operation and my credit card and identification. (Perhaps a message to me to let go of all the financial worry my dog's operation has brought.) I looked for my purse all night long, waking up grateful it was only a dream, and with these words in my head:
The wise heart
eyes that open
in the morning
and still see,
legs that go
over the side
of the bed
and still walk,
a cup of tea,
all the familiar
of the day,
a warm bed........
So many things
Blessings on your day!
The synonym poem was an interesting exercise,
but I prefer the original.
A discerning sage
eyesight on waking
hold us up,
one's mug of Earl Gray,
a comfortable nest,
Thanks for reading:)