The Bottom Line. Deciding to not do something that one could do, is to invoke one’s executive function in other words, has for me a profound meaning well past that of the opposites of desire and aversion and the opposites at large. Could it be that deliberately deciding/not doing what we could do returns us, time and again, to our fundamental ‘selves’? Bright Buddhas in a universe without edges.
Currently, I’m very much thinking of those in solitary confinement whether it be in prison in ones home or some other way of being incarcerated. There is indeed a lot of ‘confinement’ going on in this world at the moment. It has ever been thus I imagine. Yes, physical isolation has such devastating consequences on the psyche as well as, of course, physically emotionally and spiritually. All creatures suffer in their depth when in isolation and confinement, the evidence is clear to see. It’s not their choice and largely imposed from the outside. Such situations etch away at the human ‘spirit’. This has to be more than lamentable. Here is a quote linked to this business of disempowerment.
In isolation, man remains in contact with the world as the human artifice; only when the most elementary form of human creativity, which is the capacity to add something of one’s own to the common world, is destroyed, isolation becomes altogether unbearable… Isolation then becomes loneliness.
As I contemplate ‘renewal’, spiritual renewal the matter of exercising choice has been exercising me, in my thoughts and to some degree my actions as well. This is because I believe choice has to be exercised to make it real, to make manifest the individuals ability and ‘power’ to BE individual within the collective world. Which brings choice directly to the core of Buddhist practice, formal meditation. Politics (the exercising of power) is clearly in the picture in terms of exercising choice, or personal agency, however it is not at that level I am speaking.
Onwards to a look at setting aside and planning for time with yourself. Formal meditation has a unique place in our lives which I point to at the start of this post, at no other time do we chose to do nothing in such an absolute way. For a sustained length of time with nobody standing over us making us sit there! Then emerging into daily life the heart of meditation comes with us where we navigate the not altogether easy world of the opposites. A world of leading and following; freedoms to chose and times when we don’t have that freedom in a real and practical way.
This is that old ‘chestnut’, ‘how can I bring the mind of meditation into the activities, the trials and joys, of daily life’? Don’t get me started! So much to say to that, but I’ll refrain. I’ll do a ‘save’, review the text and PUBLISH.
With a mug of tea, in the early afternoon sunshine, in the garden, with a book. A gift sent from America. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Without the benefit of glasses, I glanced at the Introduction and read on.
Today, in the sunshine, reading, my perspective turned around. It was a perfect example of spiritual renewal. From feeling and being grumpy to getting up after perhaps half an hour, uplifted.
Sometimes circumstances conspire to bring about a change of heart, this was so for the author. Yes, the book, the content, the story could not do otherwise. For anyone with a heart. That’s everybody.
Thank you to the woman who gifted me the book. I’ll be reading it to the end. But maybe not in sunshine. We are expecting winter rains and wind. You helped me.
Here below is an extract from an email, published with the recipient’s consent, in which I talk about what I see as the contribution the artist gives into society. Not so easy to put into words, which is precisely the point.
Thank you for your thoughts and reasonings. I can sense there is a lot of ideas, feelings, history, (personal and political and geographical) going around for you. You are an artist, I feel that this kind of mix is almost impossible to express in any other way than through bringing out what is inside (within one’s heart) and onto paper – or whatever ones medium happens to be. Poetry does wonders too. Reaching past and through the ‘ordinary mind’ to touch and illicit an unthought out response must surely be yours to engage with, as the artist with the heart and sensibilities of an artist. Seems you don’t actually have a real choice in the matter, any more than I had a choice to be a monk. It’s a vocation, right?
The fact that you are sitting intensively will help you along, bring what is inside you to the fore. And in the midst of that is your living your life, it just happens to be ‘international’. The fact that you can make a living while you are on your feet and moving is just amazing. I’m applauding.
People would often say to me about ‘settling down’. I never have settled down and probably never will. I don’t actually know what that means in practice but I suspect its about staying in one place physically with a steady job and a steady relationship. Society needs us to be steady or is it commerce needs us to be that way, so we can be reliable and consistent consumers. Please don’t do that!
I GO DOWN TO THE SHORE
by Mary Oliver
I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall —
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.
Just a couple of hours in early September, ambling along the sandy beach at Alnmouth Bay, smelling the seaweed, watching dogs run and play, hearing the swish/woosh of the waves, sitting on a rock as the tide went out – all enough to lift my spirits. It is unmistakable the effect being beside the sea has on one’s whole being.
I wasn’t looking for anything, in particular, that day. It just seemed ‘good’ to stir myself and ‘go somewhere’ while I was having some quiet time/renewal time in August/Sept. My natural inclination was towards exploring the fields and lanes locally to where I was staying. On the day I wasn’t feeling 100% wonderful as I stepped out of the car, there are days like that. During the hours drive the exhaust pipe had broken and the sound of it vibrating against the chassis was both defining and concerning. This I could have done without.
However, it just takes a bit of ‘pushing through’ sometimes, in some circumstances, to let go mentally, emotionally and physically. This is spiritual renewal. There will always be ‘conditions’, inward and outward to push through. Not to reach somewhere else, some happier ‘place’ perhaps but when all conditions come together, there you are. Renewed! what a gift.