Tag Archives: mystery

Do You Remember?

This is a video of a marvelous poem by Marie Howe, illustrated by paper collage artist Elena Skoreyko Wagner and featuring original music by cellist Zoë Keating. As with most things, I found this video because is was shared by a friend on Facebook. And after I watched it, I wasn’t surprised to see that Maria Popova, the writer of BrainPickings, had helped the video come into being. Here is a link to her post about this poem and video.

Release

My Mom was buried today. I couldn’t be there. This song came to me. She loved this type of music. I think it’s what she would probably say…

Release

Don’t Think You Can’t See Me
Don’t Argue Amongst Yourselves
Because Of The Loss Of Me
I’m Sitting Amongst Yourselves
Don’t Think You Can’t See Me
Don’t Argue Amongst Yourselves
Because Of The Loss Of Me
I Haven’t Gone Anywhere
But Out Of My Body
Reach Out And You’ll Touch Me
Make Effort To Speak To Me
Call Out And You’ll Hear Me
Be Happy For Me
Ag Trasna An Linn/Going Across The Pool
Ag Feachaint Síos Tríd/Looking Down Through
Níl Aon Iarann I Mo Chroí Inniu/There’s No Iron In My Heart Today
Ag Oscail An Síol/Opening The Seed
Ag Feitheamh An Scéal/Waiting For The Story
Níl Aon Airgead I Mo Phóca Innui/There Is No Money In My Pocket Today
I Mo Phóca Innui/In My Pocket Today
I Mo Phóca Innui/In My Pocket Today
Innui/Today
Don’t Argue Amongst Yourselves
Because Of The Loss Of Me
I Haven’t Gone Anywhere
But Out Of My Body
Reach Out And You’ll Touch Me
Make Effort To Speak To Me
Call Out And You’ll Hear Me
Be Happy For Me
I Mo Phóca Innui/In My Pocket Today
I Mo Phóca Innui/In My Pocket Today
Innui/Today

Mourning My Mother

bleeding heart

Bleeding hearts from my parents’ garden

During this school-at-home time, Claire and I decided that our science will be to re-watch Cosmos, presented by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. She last saw it about six years ago. We watched the first episode, about the origin of the universe, and how we are star stuff.

Mom loved knowledge. She loved learning things. She was curious. She loved the natural world and science. We often talked about the mystery of what we were before we were born, and what happens after we die. What were we? How do we become conscious? As I listened to Neil describe the marvelous scale of time, I cried. Just steady tears, not big crying.

My teacher advised me to make a ritual, to follow the mourning practice of Zen Buddhist tradition (which is my practice). She recommended that I chant a sutra (doesn’t matter which one) every day for 7 days, and dedicate it each time to my mother, announcing her full name. Then to do this practice on the 14th, 21st, and 49th day of her death. I chose two: the Daihishin Darani, which is a Japanese chant to Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, and the Heart Sutra (below).

I don’t typically light candles in the house, nor do I burn incense; the scent overwhelms other family members. But then I realized I have the perfect ritual. My daily cup of coffee. Mom loved black coffee, as do I. So I make my pour-over coffee, paying attention to each detail. I talk to Mom as it brews. Once it’s ready, I sit down with coffee and my chant book. I take a sip. Then I say, “I dedicate this sutra to Mary Catherine Nicklas Petro” and begin. I choke on the words as my throat thickens. But I do it, and I don’t think overly much about it. It’s not necessary to think. It’s perhaps even detrimental. The process brings a wisp of peace.

I love you, Momma. I miss you.

MAHA PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, doing deep prajna paramita,
Clearly saw emptiness of all the five conditions,
Thus completely relieving misfortune and pain,
O Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness,
emptiness is no other than form;
Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form;
Sensation, conception, discrimination,
awareness are likewise like this.
O Shariputra, all dharmas are forms of emptiness,
not born, not destroyed;
Not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain;
So in emptiness there is no form, no sensation,
conception, discrimination, awareness;
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
No color, sound, smell, taste, touch, phenomena;
No realm of sight . . . no realm of consciousness;
No ignorance and no end to ignorance . . .
No old age and death, and no end to old age and death;
No suffering, no cause of suffering, no extinguishing, no path;
No wisdom and no gain. No gain and thus
The bodhisattva lives prajna paramita
With no hindrance in the mind, no hindrance, therefore no fear,
Far beyond deluded thoughts, this is nirvana.
All past, present, and future Buddhas live prajna paramita,
And therefore attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
Therefore know, prajna paramita is
The great mantra, the vivid mantra,
The best mantra, the unsurpassable mantra;
It completely clears all pain — this is the truth, not a lie.
So set forth the Prajna Paramita Mantra,
Set forth this mantra and say:

Gate! Gate! Paragate! Parasamgate!
Bodhi svaha. Prajna Heart Sutra.

Simply Pay Attention

Existence is hard; it is literal suffering. It has wonders and joys, amazements and fascinations, yes. And it has love. All of this along with suffering, which happens to us and which we inflict on others and our own selves. Claire once asked me, if life is suffering, what is the point of being alive? In the end it seems simple enough: we are Life experiencing itself. We are Consciousness holding everything. We are the Mystery. It doesn’t bear too much thinking about, because thinking is a distraction. Better to simply pay attention to what is happening right now, what is right in front of me, and to meet it as fully and with as much attention as I can.

Taking my own advice, I happened to notice the sunlight on freshly washed grapes when I made my lunch. After visually appreciating them for a time, before relishing them in my mouth, I snapped a photo to share.

grapessun

The Dance

For Swap-bot, I joined a project that required writing a sestina.

According to the Academy of American Poets:

“The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:

ABCDEF
FAEBDC
CFDABE
ECBFAD
DEACFB
BDFECA
(envoi)(tercet) BE. DC. FA.
The envoi, a tercet, must contain two of the repeated words per line.”

So, here is what created itself within me.

The Dance

There I stood, waiting for the express
While pondering ways to renew
my flagging spirit, which struggled to climb
life’s mounting challenges, when I saw you, serene,
your hands moving in the air, a kind of dance —
the glorious joy on your face making you rich.

Gazing around, I noticed the world’s colors were rich.
In each person I sensed the soul’s desire to express,
to enter into the dance.
I felt that I could summon the energy to renew
and make myself serene
like an arbor trellis with those roses that climb.

To reach far, to stretch toward goals that require I climb —
this makes life worthwhile, and I feel rich.
In these moments, my heart beats serene.
I vibrate with life and tremble to express,
to evolve, to embrace impermanence and thus renew
life’s eternal dance.

So, which steps will we choose to dance?
Will it be the hustle, the two-step, the fandango climb?
Or maybe a slow waltz, to allow our breathing to renew
while rhythmically moving to the beat, slow and rich.
Perhaps we will lean in to share a kiss, to express
what tantalizes us as we attempt to appear serene.

We might do this under the silver light of the moon, serene
in the movement of the dance
and the people watching — their murmurs will express
how desire steeps, distills, intensifies, like the climb
of mercury trapped in a glass tube, the red rich
like blood, like the lungs give oxygen to renew.

And after we untwine ourselves, we turn within to renew
the relationship with the One who never leaves, the serene
companion who understands money does not make one rich;
nor does having it guarantee an invitation to the dance
and that life is often one painful, slogging climb
to an illusory summit that cannot contain all we express.

The koan: how to renew attention, surrender to the dance
or rest serene, no longer compelled to grasp or climb,
sitting in life’s rich mystery, waiting on emptiness to express.

–Kathryn Harper

dancers

Surreal

Surreal

At the turn of the century
it is a long way down
to the mind’s I. A treehouse
chronicles my journey to this
lost continent, which requires
the amber spyglass to navigate.
When I arrive I am barely a
shadow. There is
snow falling on cedars; through
the woods I hear the single hound
wailing for her hometown. After
twenty years at Hull House, I
mourn for that bastard out of
Carolina who left her tender
at the bone. I wander through
trees toward her cries and find
her. My journey ends across the
river, past the canal town. Before
crossing over, I ask her for
directions. “I don’t know,” she
replies. “I’m a stranger here myself.”

–Kathryn Harper