The following is a Unitarian online presentation. (Note, in the recording I made a mistake at 14:03, saying if instead of the word in that I made bold in the text. Due to a lung situation, I chose not to re-tape the entire talk for the single word.) Audio of the essay:
Tree meditation for grounding, stability, and interconnection: MP3 recording: I invite you to listen to the second recording, for which there is no text: a tree meditation that is designed to help you become more grounded, more steadfast, to gain a sense of stability, and to gain an informed sense of inter-connection.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees. — Rilke
I’d like to begin with an open-hearted greeting, and invite you to connect with this community through active imagination. We are never alone. We are always connected by invisible threads that link us together in widening circles with our shared humanity and Beyond.
The collective consciousness is informed by perception, thoughts, feelings, and actions. Right now it is heavily influenced by the coronavirus. No matter how covid-19 plays out in terms of illness, everyone will be affected by this global pandemic, and the economic outcomes may stress the fabric of local and global communities. Using foresight, we may view this as a warm-up for the potential future disruption that could be caused by global climate change. We need to discern what is essential to our individual and collective lives.
Our tendency is to go to war against our enemies: in this case, covid-19. We look for saviors in technology, hoping to defeat the enemy so that we can return to life as normal and familiar. But Technology, while important, has outpaced ethics, humanism, and genuine spiritual growth. Omar Bradley, the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than about peace.” We need to bring balance to our collective humanity by granting relevance to core aspects of the heart-mind: compassion, insight, right action, and love. We need to move forward with strength and courage, informing a larger circle of shared being with our clarity and caring.
As we try to navigate our anxiety and unease about the coronavirus, there’s a quote I’ve kept in mind. It’s by the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: “When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”
One strong and steady voice can calm a boatload of people. A union of voices can shake anger and fear from the pockets of people. The insightful and selfless patterns we make in the world can inform the moment and add a perceptual voice to the collective consciousness. These patterns connect at a distance and elevate the potential of all Life. The brighter our light, the further it will reach into ignorance.
The following poem speaks to living life fully.
Hokusai Says by Roger Keyes
Hokusai says look carefully. He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious. Hokusai says there is no end to seeing.
He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you get more who you really are.
He says keep doing what you love. He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive – shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees, wood is alive. Water is alive. Everything has its own life. Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
It matters that you care. It matters that you feel. It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you. Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you. Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you. He says don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand. Let life live through you.
There’s is a truth about finding abundance: you need recognize the abundance you already have. There is an Ojibwa saying: “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself and all the while a great wind carries me across the sky.” Sometimes, it takes hardship for us to cherish the abundance we forgot we had.
As director of a human services organization, one of my better hires was a 25-year-old woman. She was better than projected. Once, I mentioned to her that she was wiser and more mature than her years. She responded that she had a life threatening illness when she was 17-years-old – encephalitis. After she recovered, her world had changed.
It’s true, trials can make us better, give us a new perspective on what’s most important. But trials can also wear us down, can even feel traumatizing. Can we predict in advance who may benefit from difficulty and who may decompensate? Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” However, he also said that some people always remember the pain, and that on rainy days they feel low.
How is it that some people are strengthened by vulnerability and some brought down. It’s a good inquiry for ourselves, and my guess is that if you are one of those listening or reading right now, you are in the camp that are made stronger by adversity, the cracks letting the light shine through. Everyone has a different margin of tolerance to difficulties and change. We ourselves don’t always know how strong, how resilient we will be if we encounter severe hardship – how circumstance may bend or strengthen us. But most of us can become more skillful given the right teaching, skillful means that appeal and make sense. Most of us can learn to ground ourselves when our mind is racing with worry or our situation seems beyond us. We don’t need to be champion meditators. When our world seems upside down, we can learn and practice a few tricks to help us remain calm enough to be discerning, to maintain enough clarity to align ourselves with right action. It helps if we have a clear worldview with life affirming experience.
I find myself concerned that our collective consciousness is preparing, visioning, for the worst possible scenarios, holding on to our urge as separate tribes and individuals to battle the invisible foes. That’s not so say that there aren’t challenges ahead. But there is much that we don’t know, and it makes sense that we meet challenges with the best version of ourselves, with our whole being. It’s too easy to hang our future on the viral news that intends to keep us agitated enough to stay tuned. And it’s easy to project disruptions into our lives, because they’re already in progress. Can we also envision an opportunity for the shining aspects of our potential to see the possibility of the world re-organizing into something that becomes renewed after the storm. Not just the same old same old. We can open ourselves to a higher or deeper aspect of being, a common Source of our bright imaginations. As a circle, we don’t know the limits of what is possible.
Everyone has a gift, a part of the whole that contributes to that potential. Together, we could course the Way as if on gifted wings. This situation can become training for collective challenges both now and in the future. Can we evolve or unite in goodwill, just enough, so that our priorities are filled with grace. What is the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible? It’s like a Zen koan, an inquiry that could challenge our fixed ideas of what the world is, should be, and can become when we intend interbeing and connection as the current of sacred motion. It’s an inquiry that can challenge and reorganize our priorities, if we are strong enough to open up to visionary potential. And we can only do that in our ongoing moments, in any of our ongoing appointments with the flow of time, our actions, and with being itself. Yes, we do need to be strong to ignore a triggered survival response, the us vs. them competing for resources. Our challenge, that exists alongside the viral challenge, is to open up to a version of reality that is kinder and less self-absorbed. There is the hope that our suffering can lead to more open-hearted awareness.
Charles Eisenstein writes: “to interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the [coronavirus] crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future.”
Some of our potential for change may manifest from of an appreciation for whatever we have taken for granted. Gratitude for what we already have, or what seemed to be just a part of our life, is what attracts similar connections through our interconnection with Life. When we give our gifts to a circle of becoming, synergies form without our needing to manage them. This is a Way that requires both love and trust, and a sense that all the patterns we make in the world are enduring, even if we are unable to follow them into bloom.
How do we build a new house? First, we need to plan and visualize, use our imagination, to explore what that house might look like, then believe in what is possible. Are we building for luxury and status, or are we building to interface with Mother Earth? I understand that it’s not just making a wish and blowing out the candles. This is grown-up wishing, the kind of clear consciousness that can spread and grow in widening circles.
When we become steadfast and grounded, we can build our home as an agent of Life. Build right where we are, with branches reaching toward the sun and roots growing into the Earth.
Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath…. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis. It was time for a break in the narrative. Here’s the quote from Gandi that you may have heard, and is worth repeating: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits.”
When a caterpillar spins a cocoon (a chrysalis) it doesn’t just grow wings and alter it’s body shape. It turns into goo. Scientists call this imaginal goo, that stuff from which a grand transformation is possible. I love that. Einstein reminds us that imagination is more important than knowledge. It’s from an active, engaged, and discerning imagination that transformation is possible for us as well. We can emerge from our solitude with new and renewed agreements and insights into interbeing.
Arthur Koestler had an apt allegory. He suggests we imagine two captains of two ships. One captain has a partial treasure map, an incomplete but otherwise reliable map. The treasure is both grounded and transcendent, both time and timeless. It is the Holy Grail. The other captain has no such map, has never even considered the existence of such a map. These two captains will navigate very differently. The first captain will embark on a quest, knowing that, while he or she has no guarantee of success, the quest nourishes the crew and contributes to the collective consciousness. The quest is sacred. The second captain is likely to fill his or her time with diversions. He or she is likely to become the captain of a pleasure cruise, if resources allow.
I’m suggesting that following an incomplete map to find the Holy Grail is not a win or lose situation. We will find small treasures along the way, and plant seeds for future growth. Our discoveries will encourage growth in others. What we learn on the journey leads to gradual awakening. It’s time we grow up as a species, take the next step, laying a foundation for how we interact with our world and with All-That-Is.
The following may be an old joke, but it’s apropos to this teaching. A student comes to a young professor’s office hours. She glances down the hall, closes his door, kneels pleadingly. “I would do anything to pass this exam.” She leans closer to him, flips back her hair, gazes meaningfully into his eyes. “I mean…” she whispers, “I would do…anything.” He returns her gaze. “Anything?” Anything.” His voice softens. “Anything??” “Absolutely anything.” His voice turns to a whisper. “Would you…study?”
We can’t acquire skillful means or cultivate a quality such as compassion or love without putting in some time, giving attention to experience that feeds our soul. Shifting our attention from fear to love does require a modicum of discipline and some intentional practice to begin to make the shift. We need to do the inner work over time. We need to be intimate with our inner life.
So, I’m going to end this talk with a very brief practice, a loving-kindness blessing. I’m going to repeat the blessing two times. The first time is for you. The second is an opportunity to project your caring to someone in your imagination.
May I be safe and protected, tender with all the difficulties that arise, loving and strong, feel embodied with healing energy, and make insightful and caring patterns in the world.
Thank you for connecting with this presentation. May you thrive with loving connections.