findingexpression

awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice


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If we live the question now, someday we may live into the answer.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

I think writing is a process of becoming conscious of the questions. We spend most of our lives running from or trying to answer questions, but sitting with the questions themselves in awareness, hardly. We either tiptoe out of the room looking for something else to distract us or set a laser beam on the more obvious but perhaps least sincere resolution. Meditation is a process of defining the questions, waiting, listening, observing the mind until gracefully the question becomes clear. Or if we have great longing we surrender to our tremendous smallness and we merge with the questions like the low tide exchanging sand and water, water and sand, at once, moving together.

Writing is a meditation on the question, refining it, circling around it if we are clumsy, touching it tenderly if we are calm or frightened, breaking it open if we are bold. What are my questions?

Lately I am facing the question of place, where do we belong?

This is something we have been patient with, waiting for an answer; we have been living with the question. I deal out different answers, sure, but only because social conventions oblige us. We have been diving through the question for more than a year, a clock ticking beside us on the wall and still underwater. Mostly we feel stillness there observing the fish, the rocks, the lake weeds, is there a warm swirl of water there where the sun comes through illuminating the mica in the stones, rose colored quartz and golden sunfish swimming? I admit, sometimes I panicked and kicked upwards to breathe the air and called it all absurd, but I didn’t throw myself back onto the shore. I waited and the question itself became a part of me and I could again feel the peaceful observance. We want to know the answer, of course, but this question will only be answered through small gifts of listening shells, maybe something will wash up on the shore, catch our eye while swimming and the collection will speak the answer with its weight. I think it unlikely that we will find a sunken treasure, but a few rare jewels may suffice.

To be more true to Rilke’s sentiments, by living the question, we may live the answer. In our waiting we have made discoveries, not of jewels but of our hearts own desires, of decisions made by not deciding. We don’t need to be near the door of a Gurdwara Sahib, we have lived this year without it and found enough faith in our four walls to sustain us.  We only found it by waiting. I know that living above the ground has kept me from touching it. I know I can’t live so far above the ground for much longer, I need that first floor door to propel me out where great joy awaits in dark soil and puddles and stemmed and rooted things. In our waiting for Spring, Spring itself will propel me, send me seeking soil. The mud will embed in my fingers and I will become a part of that place. The answers come in the living of it. The compass twitches with our own electromagnetic force.

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Longing to belong


Baba Prem Singh Ji, Anandpur Sahib, founder Dera Moyian di Mandi (dead men’s market, referring to our Maya world)
 
I used to think that choosing a monastic life was a way that people like me might escape not only from the world, but also from the pain of love, its loss or its absence. I thought that a commitment could be made, a discipline adopted, or a code agreed to that could fulfill the needs of our heart and provide ample solace because it would organize humanity’s chaos. Since I am a person who wants very little from the world and often as not want to recoil from what many call freedoms but I consider to be confinements I have felt the paradoxical need for some extremes in my life. I wanted to separate from Maya (illusion) and find truth and simplicity. I wanted to surrender to something larger than myself because it seemed only reasonable to observe that this world was crazy. I dreamed about living like the early New England colonists, but my parent’s and aunts quickly disregarded me for being overly romantic about dirt floors and naïve about living without penicillin. My personality could not accept any of the more common extremes like anorexia, drugs, suicide or even living in a cave, because, if for no other reason, they were ends rather than journeys. Also, I was never able to commit to those outermost extremes. I can’t even maintain a fast for more than a few hours. However, I did draw up plans for fasts in my mind and that’s exactly where they stayed, as psychological malnourishment. Then a path chose me by showing me, through the experience of yoga, that renunciation was a tool but without awareness it was an avoidance.

I began to understand my hunger. Through meditation and prayer my hunger grew and it expanded into emptiness and reached towards nothingness. The emptiness obliterated my collected emotional scars and made ridiculous and futile my attempts at deprivation. In the emptiness I realized that all I had was profound longing. That longing was a divine gift and for that gift I felt tremendous gratitude. I began to thrive on the source of that longing; it was love.

It has since become clear to me that not only as an ascetic, a nun, or priest of any persuasion, but as a simple adherent you cannot truly adopt a religious life, a spiritual life, unless you embrace love as a way of life. Disciplines, articles of faith and codes of conduct are guides. A very wise friend told me they are only signposts, don’t confuse the signs with your destination or you may never arrive. In Sikhism and I believe at the core of any faith, when we surrender to God we surrender to our profound longing; we surrender to love in all its wild abundance, its simplicity and its chaos.

With dedication to Baba Diaal Singh Ji, Anandpur Sahib, Dera Moyian di Mandi, who left his body 2/2013.


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post Wisconsin

I want to tell the story of a woman who was dramatically changed by the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Wisconsin this past August. I would like to write the story of an everyday sort of heroine, a woman who ardently worked towards something important after the attack. I know that at first she would follow the news, in shock like many others, deeply saddened in a way that she did not expect. She would publicly contribute kind words of solidarity to the Oak Creek community and maybe travel there to help. She wrote and spoke to her family and shared some of her grief. She sank into her husband’s arms at night and they spoke in soft tones of their pain that once again Sikhs had been targeted.

In the days that followed she sharpened all the kirpans in their home although many could not hold an edge. She reflected on a friend who is a knife maker who complained about the quality of kirpans most Sikhs carry. She was dismayed that the attacker at Oak Creek was not impeded by a kirpan. She speculated that not even the president of the Gurdwara Sahib had a kirpan that he felt would be effective and instead took a knife from the kitchen to try to fend off the attacker. Due to the president’s courage, strength and persistence he did slow down the assailant, but maybe it would have been different.

She wrote to her Sikh friends to encourage them to read the Siri Guru Granth Sahib ji, their sacred text and living Guru, to read it together in what is called a Sahej Path in an act of prayer, unity and hope and to offer solace to herself and her community. She enrolled in a self-defense course. She worked with others in her community to develop a knife skills class and lobbied to find an instructor of Gatka, Sikh martial arts. She attended services at her local Gurdwara Sahib and joined an interfaith group to share life experiences and shared love of a universal God with people of many other faiths. She volunteered where there were needs both inside and outside of her Sikh community. She contacted her local news stations and government officials to increase awareness about Sikhism. She actively campaigned for gun control. She did all these things and she was changed, strengthened, more prepared, and so was her community. The very definition of what was her community expanded.

I wish I knew that woman. I would like to be that woman. I envy her strength and her ability to take action. I know there are many men and women out there that have done these simple yet great acts with spirit and fortitude that I admire. As for myself, I feel disconnected from my base Sikh community by geographical distance and from a local community by a psychological distance, but that is more excuse than reality. I did do some of the things imagined here, but I don’t feel changed and I will never feel that it is enough. I still feel mournful. My grief is combined with sadness about Sandy Hook, about rapes and the status of women in India, about stories that I cannot write about, not yet. For myself, isolated as I am from a Sikh community, I feel my best option is to write. However, I have to find a way to layer the fiction and craft in my attempt at writing those stories. I have to explore more of this imaginary woman.

As I write, I realize something has changed, but not in a way that I had expected. What has changed is that finally I am writing and writing publicly. I am not so bold as to call it courage but certainly it is hard for me and has taken me a long, long time to be willing to allow others to read my expressions, my attempts.

A wise friend once told me that among women our gift is sharing our vulnerability to help others; it conquers fear and makes us more free, more open to new possibilities. Perhaps I will never be the passionate heroine, boldly fighting injustice, but I am more open to the possibility of re-defining what is my community and the possibility that through this we all can be strengthened.

Resource
http://www.sikhchic.com/current_events/oak_creek_in_memoriam highlights stories of real life courage


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Sometimes the tea is forgiving

IMG_5217
Sometimes the tea is forgiving
I left it on the stove too long for some casual affair,
examining the weather from the large window or
putting away a blanket from my morning nap,
a minor loss of consciousness.

Sometimes the tea is forgiving and
does not burn my tongue
does not turn bitter from its patient but too long waiting,
still can taste sweet or rich at least
for enduring time.


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All that comes to mind are titles

I have been reading some other blogs these days and people have captured wonderful quotes; inspiring, gritty, thoughtful. I admire those who can remember quotes or author’s names, whole poems, or stanzas at least. I used to think I had a good memory, photographic at times. I can still sometimes ‘see’ things to confirm my memory, but being able to ‘see’ the grocery list or someone’s phone number has limited use. My memory is mostly empathic; I remember the feeling about something. I am right now trying to remember what was so funny and interesting about what I wrote in my mind for this blog last night. I was too tired to get up and write it down. I am remembering only mountains and valleys of thoughts and something about narcissistic self-loathing being a genetic trait. But what was really on my mind, the unstoppable gears grinding on something I wanted to go away, like the tune from a bad pop song, were titles.

All that comes to mind are titles. Titles, titles, titles, as if we start from the beginning. There is no beginning, as much as we try to find it, as much as we want to restart from there. No, titles don’t take me far enough into it, they are just playthings, little balls we toss and toss or roll in our hands, squeezing them but they never pop, never land. Re-starting, landing, that’s what a friendless person of my age wants. The bitterness has not set in yet, there are still dreams, illusions, even a little hope of magic left, but we can’t seem to find enough of it.

Contemplating the iron blades of the just-too-high fence I dare not sit upon it to climb over into the well tended garden that does not belong to me, nor do I wish to look down at my sinking boots. I am looking for definitions, but I don’t want to be defined by this mud. I reach for the letters of others’ titles, holding onto the serif of an ‘s’ or a ‘t’, wanting to bring them into my own hand and let them grow new branches, branches that grow and grow and breath deeply the air and sunshine and make something entirely new. But I am just looking and blinded a little by the grey bright sunlight of late winter. The wind is so strong in the trees. The blowing snow is creating new topographies. So how is it that I am in the mud on this freezing day? This bright day. This blinding day that leads me only further into it….

I describe this place, the mud in front of the fence, because it is the place that belongs to me. I forever see the garden ahead of me but I can only spin around, making mud in the ground, never sinking, just turning against the wind when it stings my face.

So this is a beginning, always terrible, unscripted, too serious and disconnected. Am I supposed to think this out beforehand? Would it bring me to a different place, or just set me down for a while longer, thinking? No sustainability, no way of moving forward, no insight gained from looking back. The only teacher here is this mud, telling me something through its persistence.