In her retreat at Upaya, Joanna Macy spoke of being satisfied with just what we have. A retreatant asked how that could possibly be useful to the people in Haiti (the earthquake was very prominent in our thoughts on that day) who now had less than what had been already a horrendously impoverished life. Roshi Joan Halifax, adding to Joanna Macy’s response, pointed out that the dharma was aimed at our perceptions and she closed with this statement:
“Do not foster a mind of poverty in yourself and others.”
There’s something about these words, isn’t there? Kindling, not an image, but a felt sensation of lack. Or is it destitution? Deprivation? The edges of my grasping melt and diffuse outwards and the boundaries become softer like a gentle net that will catch me.
I’m particularly attracted to practicing with this as an aspiration in the light of ongoing debates about awards and recognitions of worth. In my wandering, I came across this blog, Layers, which has on its home page, the statement “no awards PLEASE – but I LOVE to receive comments.” Fantastic statement – and pretty amazing art too.
Unfortunately (or may be very fortunately), it makes me feel my greed deeply. I like awards – a bit for myself but more for others because it can honour those who really put themselves out on the line. Besides, how else to practice boundless joy?! And how else can we practice not fostering the mind of poverty in ourselves and others? Because the winning is not in the acquisition of the prize and the losing is not in standing aside. It is in the mind of desire which learns ever so slowly about what it already has and what is just cluttering up the view.
What do you have that you would not if you cultivated a mind poverty?
Thank you for practicing,