Giving Expression?

Do we believe art, in all its myriad forms, is only and exclusively the domain of ‘artists’? What makes art, ‘art’? Is it the recognition of what’s produced as having an aesthetic ‘value’, accompanied by a rising price tag as more works are produced? And the artists themselves, what of them? They become ‘names’, public property along with their ‘works’. An acquaintance of mine paints and draws and sticks it on their wall, sometimes framed, often not. Who’s to say these pieces will, one day, become valued as have the doodles of some of our greats? Not forgetting among the artists; dramatists, actors, dancers, photographers, performers of all kinds. And then there are the great and wonderous writers and poets giving their expression; pouring out their lifeblood as others do, to express that which is revealed unbidden and inexplicably.

Yesterday afternoon I heard myself say, ‘I’ve just done an honest half-days work.’! Given we are closed to guests at the moment we have made a start on painting rooms in the Hall of Pure Offerings. Putting on work clothes doing physical work, getting dirty, getting tired and hungry causes me to feel I’ve actually ‘done something’. Right there. There is something to show for it. No sooner had I spoken, ironically by the way, of my ‘honest half-days work’ than somebody quipped ‘all forms of work are honest’! Quite so too. No glory or acclaim, no applause for giving simple creative expression to – tending plants for example. It is, of course, the ‘how’ more than the ‘what’ that is significant. We would say it’s about ‘attitude of mind’ which is private and personal and known only within our being. Quite often this knowledge is hidden even to ourselves. Only when the flower arrangement, for example, brings a welling of joy is an expression made manifest to the ‘artist’. And their public!

One of the many memories that have surfaced since Rev. Myfanwy’s death on the 2nd of July is a conversation we had while she was staying in Cornwall, 2001. ‘Gosh’! I exclaimed a bit frustrated, ‘I’ve done nothing all-day’. The Reverend replied, ‘you have been talking on the phone non-stop, that’s not nothing. That’s tiring too’. Clearly, there was nothing to show, nothing produced, nothing to put one’s hand on. Nothing to see or stand back and admire or for anybody else to appreciate either. But she saw through that. I’ve always remembered that exchange. Giving expression comes in many forms, including listening to the words and expressions of others.

Out and beyond.
what impels us
to give expression?

Why pick up a pen
or brush or
rise from a chair!

Could it be
the veil lifts
briefly.

Each of us
driven to
give expression.

Through living
nothing
special!

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Soft Is The Heart That ‘Knows’

And so it is and so it must be…

Do not surrender your loneliness
So quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender.

My need of ‘God’
Absolutely
Clear.

By Sufi poet, Hafiz

With thanks to Eddie for pointing me to this poem. It speaks to intimacy that has no object.

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Good Grief!

The late Iain Robinson would, in conversation, frequently exclaim, ‘Good Grief’! This was an expression that covered a lot of ground, anything from mild surprise to outright outrage. I’ve thought of him in recent days/months/years, imagining his heated response to what’s happening in the world. Lots of cause for ‘good grief’s’ these days, ey Iain! In my bones, I feel we are coming up for the anniversary of your death, sometime in July nine whole years ago. Right?

Whether or not those heated responses would be justified, or not, grief itself is ‘good’. I’m coming to understand that rather directly these past days since we heard of Rev. Myfawy’s death last Thursday. Like that tree from yesterday with every twig of it connected to every other branch and twig, one death is all deaths, all connected. Everywhere throughout all time and space, it just takes time (and space) to realise that. It’s a step to know that grieving ends up less personal, more universal. Even when, at the same time, intensely personal.

In the midst of it who goes willingly to one’s sitting place to become ‘intimate’ with nameless blank numbness? But this is part of the curve associated with coming to terms with change. Following the curve on its upward journey, our journey, there is to be found acceptance. That’s integrating the ever-present reality of mortality with the very real practical changes that become our very real, changed, lives.

Death at the door.
Friends, relatives,
lovers and strangers.

Good Grief? Yes, Iain.
Good because grief is
on the path to acceptance.

Not that loss
ever becomes something
other than loss.

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Regarding Taking Refuge – Brenda Birchenough

milnthorpe-sands-tree

While Rev. Master Daizui (the late head of our order) was talking I suddenly had a mental ‘flash picture’ of a great tree and from the deepest root to the furthest twig flowed the lifeblood of training. This lifeblood was the Water of the Spirit and for it to flow, every part of this ‘tree’ had to be in contact with every other part and this contact was (and is) the taking of Refuge (in the sangha).

This is an insight Brenda Birchenough shared with me in an email. I’ve not got a date but it could have been 2000.

The merit of this post is dedicated to Sandy Johnson who is close to death and for his wife Sue. Go in peace.

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Kind Leadership – a Kindle read

There is a limit to how much we can predict the future. Chaos theory tells us that everything affects everything else, and this is very evident in many complex work environments. This does not mean we have to surrender to anarchy but it does suggest another reason for relaxing attempts to control the future. Many traditional cultures recognise the usefulness of being lost. To be lost is to be at a place where previous methods of finding
the way are no longer working. This is a call to find new ways of moving forward. The act of being lost requires us to let go of previous beliefs and this creates a space in which new ideas
can arise. What often happens in this situation is that we start to look around us in a new way. We might re-look at the information we have, or talk to people we have not spoken to for a while, or simply create some space to reflect on the situation. In doing this our understanding can deepen and we can gain new insights into the situation.

This is an extract from ‘Kind Leadership’ by Neil Rothwell, Chapter 7 Letting Go of Control.

Neil, who is based in Edinburgh, Scotland is a member of the Buddhist sangha connected with the order I am part of. This book is available to read on Kindle, at £1.95. I was hard-pressed to choose a quote from this packed-full of useful and insightful practical information and advice. Where ever you are and whatever your ‘position’ there is something in this book to benefit from.  No doubt about that.

Thank you, Neil, I can’t say enough good things about what you have written and offered.

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Practice Within The Order of Buddhist Contemplatives