winds of joy, light at my feet

From Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering through practice – equanimity

The second entrance to the path is through the practice of following conditions or (Red Pine) adapting to conditions.  

(S)entient beings lack a self and are all whirled around by conditions and karma; suffering and joy are to be equally accepted, for both arise from conditions.

When life throws up these dust storms that blind me or the days grow darker and darker, my support circles point to the light at the end of the tunnel.  I understand that in their love for us and their wish to speed up the journey through the dark or bumpy parts, they’d like us to look into the distance and grasp that this experience is impermanent.  However, it’s a risky process which can carry us too quickly away from the reality of what is right here.

The light at the end of the tunnel is actually more useful when it shines right here in tunnel at my feet.  

Bodhidharma’s teachings suggest that we are vulnerable to being swept away by the winds of joy and the dust storms of suffering.  To attach to each one unduly makes no sense because the conditions that created them are not sustainable.  (Oh yes, I can definitely continue to make myself miserable but that’s not the same misery I started out with.  Check it out for yourself!)  To reject either unconsciously is dangerous because this creates a loss of intimacy with ourselves and others.  To become confused about the origins of them is pointless because the causes and conditions lie in an intricate and oft-times tangled web of action and reaction.

Unmoved by the winds of joy*, one is mysteriously in accordance with the path.

Now you may thank that this reduces you to zombie-like blob, careening off the walls and lamp posts of your path.  At their extreme, all statements are untenable and likely false.  To be unmoved is to be steady in the experience of joy, to be connected deeply with it.  So deeply that there is a spaciousness that arises which can contain the entire spectrum of variability in each joy, sorrow, contentment, pain, love, and anguish.

The adaptability we practice is not to the great brush strokes of impermanence.  It is to the rhythmic variation in the winds of joy and woe.

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake 

It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

*”Winds of Joy here may refer to the eight winds or eight worldly conditions.  For a brilliant story read here.


A Valentine’s Letter

Most people associate Valentine’s Day with expressions of love and much like Christmas, there’s an understandable aversion to the enforced sentimentality.  I use it as a day to express my joy for all that you are, a day that reminds me of how we are deeply connected and inextricably interwoven.  Growing up, I was told that Valentine was a prisoner of the Romans, a Christian persecuted for his faith.  While in jail, he supposedly sent out letters to his followers encouraging them to continue the work of the spirit.  Thus began the first Valentine’s cards.  Apparently, that legend no longer has much coin, having been replaced by other stories about multiple Valentines and one whose only card was to a love interest.  But along with the stories about Valentine was a reminder that this holiday (as with most in Western culture) originated in a ritual to encourage fertility in women and the land in the coming Spring.

It’s all about encouragement, isn’t it?  Encouragement so that what is precious can grow and nourish.  And as I sat wondering how to write to you about all the wonders I see in you, I realized that the source of encouragement is an openness to joy for all that you manifest day by day.  When you wake up and face the morning, I am taken by the strength you show in letting go of the mists of forgetfulness.  As you negotiate through the day seeking a path that will be the best possible for whoever is in front of you, behind you, all around you, I am delighted by your diligence.  Each time you share your deepest self in your writing, your drawing, your touch, your single word of comfort, I am electric with amazement to be one of the recipient of your gifts.  When you lay your head down to surrender to the letting go at day’s end, I am humbled by your courage in being so ultimately vulnerable.

And yet, and yet I know you struggle too.  Finding that moment’s spark to step into the day, to do what is asked, to discern what is not.  I hear your voice tight and controlled, trying and trying to convey thought without judgment.  You move cautiously through the maze of relationships wrestling with uncertainty.  In that space between in- and out-breath, I see you find release.   And my heart swells with joy as you smile quietly as you know you can step into the next moment totally.

This is love which is a resonating joy.  It echoes back and forth, careening off the walls in our life, amplifying and dampening along the edges and creases of our sorrows and soothings.   It is one of the chambers in the heart which fills roaring, rapid, and resonant.