Tag: Religion and Spirituality
I just finished a book about the magic and mystery of the natural world and it thrilled my soul like all good books do, especially when the story has to do with forces we humans don’t understand.
Today is Friday the 13th. And not only that, it’s a full moon—two weighted events in many people’s psyches.
The full moon’s effect has entered our lexicon: lunacy, lunatic. And Friday the 13th is considered unlucky—13 being the number outside of the whole number of 12. I’m not sure why Friday, although I do know that sailors will not start a trip on a Friday—I know we didn’t in my family.
But I don’t consider the full moon an adversary and I certainly don’t think Friday the 13th is unlucky. I’ve written about the full moon before Full Moon Dreams and you know that I pay attention to what is shown to me during this time, because instead of being half or fully buried it has now been brought up to a place where I can work with it.
As for Friday the 13th:
I was born on the 13th and I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th. And the day I turned thirteen on Friday the 13th was the full moon.
I think “unlucky” is a way to describe events that happen to us that we don’t know how to process because they are not what we think we want to have happen to us. My personal belief is that everything that happens to me is for my highest good—that the natural world, of which I am a part, has my compassionate evolution in mind, not my destruction. So with that belief firmly seated in my soul, I gratefully take what the world gives me, trying to learn what I am supposed to learn.
One last thing: my Buddhist name, given to me by my teacher, the late Peter Matthiessen, is Tsu Ki. It means, The Moon.
There are few places where the silence of the natural world reigns. My pond, in the autumn, is one of them. Yesterday I took a walk down the dirt road and after a while I realized that the sound of my footsteps on the dirt was the loudest noise around and that if I stood still, I could hear the leaves as they fell, clicking against the branches on their journey to the ground. Not a bird call, not a motor sound—faint or near—not a voice, no human noises at all. Not one.
Without another human noise to connect to, to validate me and my existence, the silence pressed in—an immense hushed world, where I did not matter at all.
Connection. That is what we humans give each other. Little chips of connection that keep us floating in our self-constructed universes. Take those chips away, though, take away any visual or auditory clue to other humans, and you have only the silence of a neutral world. Which can feel a bit scary. But just as lonely-scary as nature solitude can be, it also offers the potential of unshakable strength. Because those chips can and will be taken away at times. But an openhearted connection to the natural world, by virtue of that very world’s disinterest, will always hold.
Boris Pasternak, in Doctor Zhivago writes: “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness.” But having the good luck to live in a world that can at times be silent of any indications of being in “a life similar to the life of those around us,” I realize that the sharing of happiness can be the sharing with yourself—a gift of insight courtesy of belonging to the natural world. Because being comfortable in the silence means accepting the connection nature has offered you.
One of the things I appreciated about my vacation last week was the perspective I had when I came back. Right now I’m going through something. It’s a growth (aren’t they all) phase, and I call it that because it is so darn uncomfortable. My insides are all churny and I feel as if the old structures that I set up to define me and protect me—the scaffolding and armature of my identity—are breaking off and falling away. The me that is growing bigger than my old façade feels unsure and vulnerable as it is being exposed and it doesn’t have the protection I think I need, hence the uncomfortable feeling.
And therein lies the rub, as they say.
Because the whole point of living is not to protect and wall off yourself, it is to feel your life. Feelings of vulnerability and lostness are part of life. And if I don’t let myself go down there and wallow in it, not only am I missing out on experiencing my life, but I’m short circuiting my process of growth by not acknowledging the feelings that herald that particular growth.
I really don’t like the feeling of not being in control. Trust is not my strongest suit. So guess what, it is trust that I have to learn to grow into. And life, in all its profound wisdom, presents me with opportunities to trust by making me feel vulnerable. I could fight it, and I have, in the past. But that only leads to a stronger, shall we say, nudge, to grow. So now I try to get what life is asking of me. I go down there and I wallow and I feel what is asking to be felt. And then I discover, to my surprise and gratitude that vulnerability is just that—a time of openness and trust. And in truth, it is filled with the joy that is the foundation of life.
I visited Canterbury Shaker Village in New Hampshire this week. I’ve been to three or so Shaker museums but this one had a distinctly different feel to it. It felt less like a museum and more like a village that was once thriving and is now gone—like a ghost town. Walking through the buildings, two things struck me. One, I no longer had the longing I had previously always felt in a Shaker village—the sort of longing that made me wish I could have lived there in its heyday. And two, I thought about the Shaker credo: “Hands to work, hearts to God” in a different way.
Looking at the rooms furnished with Shaker tables, chairs, baskets and those famous built in cupboards—revered designs that have spawned industries and collections—I finally really understood that it wasn’t—for the Shakers—about the stuff or the efficiency or the order; it was about their faith. Of course I knew that their spirituality was the underpinning of their communities, since I had read it over and over, back when I studied all things Shaker; but at Canterbury, with it’s unglamorous (and I mean that as a compliment) aspect something came to roost that hadn’t been there before. I saw the process behind the object and the belief behind the process.
This is what I understood: While the Shakers lived physically apart from the world in their self-sustaining communities, they didn’t deny the outside world; they interacted with it when it served their purposes–they knew they were a part of the bigger world and so a part of the larger whole. Apart and a part: both separate and part of the whole. The archetypal truth of being.
I am a basket maker and weaver loosely trained in “Shaker” basket making and weaving and this background helped me understand that craft is a manifestation of this belief in and acceptance of apart and a part. The final product may be apart from you; but in the doing of it you have become a part of the larger whole. The doing and the time spent are the worship and the offering, the connection to the whole. That’s why, for the Shakers, whatever they did had to be as perfect as possible, because each moment of time was a moment given to God—whatever you believe God to be.
A moment given to God—love that.