There’s an edge that is always pressing into the space around it. Even if it only serves as a support for something else to push outward, it lives its purpose as the staging area for growth. But growth can’t happen unless all parts of the system are involved. The trunk of a tree can’t just decide it’s going to grow and head off into one direction while the branches head off into another. It sounds obvious yet how often have I decided to dive into something without really considering how it’s going to be sustained as I stretch at the growing edge?
Growth also happens continuously. It may slow at times. Get re-directed. But it tends to be a continuous process. I forget that too. When practice seems diverted or stagnant, I feel like “nothing’s happening.” Or when plans tumble into disarray, I feel stunted in my aspirations. Depending on my state of mind, I might take all or none of the responsibility for the mess.
Whether I am committing myself to something without appreciating the available resources or misunderstanding my situation, I tend to act as if I (meaning my perspective) am the only one who matters. I think the real definition of narcissism is “thinking you can be a branch without the trunk, leaves, flower, fruit, or roots.” Or maybe that’s the definition of “clueless.”
The second turning of the wheel of the Fourth Noble Truth is the study of what encourages or reinforces healthy growth. There has to be a willingness to stay at this edge where growth happens. What that means in terms of living my practice is hard to put into words. It’s noticing how, these days, my eyes click like a camera shutter. I’m more likely to pull out the camera than to say, “Oh, that would have been a good shot.” Or it is feeling the steadiness in my tone as I make a dreaded phone call. There was a moment when chaos ruled because I had overlooked a detail – and then order asserted itself because I got out of my own way. Oh, and there was that awesome moment when an old, familiar demon appeared and tried to set two of us up for a dog fight – only to find I am much better at letting go.
These are just the buds. The whole system that sustains and nourishes this growth is comprised of innumerable beings. It arises from the blogs I feed at and bloggers I harass with my comments. The interconnections of authors, books they’ve written, and those to be test-driven are a series of roots pulling nourishment up into my branches. Chaplaincy readings are challenging my comfort zone or taking me back to decades past when I thought I understood Joanna Macy, Fritjof Capra, or Thich Nhat Hanh. Friends are surfacing after years and new forms of connections are strengthening. Family is coming together, quietly in the background. Friends are moving on and I quiver at this edge of letting go which I preach constantly about: Walking the entire path they take is not given to you, only to their threshold.
Thank you for practising,
Is there a complaint department at this blog? I’d like to file a harassment complaint.
Maybe I’m just clueless (maybe??!!?!) but perhaps the lovely tree in your metaphor (branch, trunk, leaves, flower, fruit, roots) itself depends upon sunlight, earthworms, bumblebees, and bacteria. And each of those depends upon something else. Only our clueless narcissism creates the division. Hard to acknowledge, eh?
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Absolutely re: birds and bees. It’s all part of the ecology of practice.
If you think I’m harassing you now, wait until tomorrow’s post! Hah!