women ancestors

Today is International Women’s Day. A heartwarmed cheer to all of you who take the time to share your insights!  May you feel honoured today as you so deserve!

Over the weekend, I have been reflecting on the various women in my life who have influenced – some only by nefarious comparison – not only my choices but also my way of being.  Growing up equally willing to climb trees and play with dolls, I never really thought of gender as a defining aspect of my life.  Some time in my educational path, someone pointed out that my unresolved feelings towards my mother underlay my love of all things unconventional for females.  “There are things unconventional for females?” I asked.  “Whoddathunk.”

But seriously.  I admit a penchant for strong, uncompromising women.  Coming from a matriarchal lineage of such types, it is not surprising that my first role model was a professor called the “Tasmanian Devil.”  Others have been equally powerful and relentless in their determination to stand up for their values and never apologize for their standards.  If all this sounds too harsh, I’ll freely admit, it can be and has been.  I learned many lessons at their feet; some I’ve modified a tad because apparently, it’s not de rigeur to bring grown men to tears, even in the cause of saving the world. For the most part, I feel a measure of success in taking what was good in their teachings.

I also feel a measure of failure.  There are still times when I desire community so much I will sacrifice common sense.  Times when exclusionary tactics trigger a cloying “oh please let me in.”  Times when I want to be that limpet in the front row, sighing at the dharma teacher, exuding “save me!”  In a recent email exchange with a Zen Woman, I was asked pointedly if I really did not desire “the Good Daddy” to make this spiritual path “all better.”  The truth?  I don’t anymore – if I ever did.  Certainly, I’ve been caught in the games of emotional vampires who demanded adoration in exchange for protection, who baited the hook of their needs with morsels of dharma.  And, I’m proud of the scars left from tearing out the hooks they embedded deep in my being.

So, on this one day of honouring my women ancestors, I remember some of the most important teachings.

I am not just this bent and sometimes broken creature,who can only be saved through dependence and subversion.

I am more than any one person can see through their own needs.

I am strength beyond words, weakness beyond cries, concepts extinguished so absolutely that I can only be met in a gaze that sears all guile.

As are you.

So, on this day of honouring my women ancestors, I invite you~

To walk away from all that keeps you too small for your world.

To see yourself as beyond labels and injunctions.

To take what is truly you, in all its power and surrender, and throw it into the face of what holds you back.

To know that you are not the first to be told you will be someone’s saviour, someone’s salvation, someone’s cause – even if you are in this one instance.

To see that refusing to be a Saviour, bring Salvation, be a Cause, is to keep yourself for what is far more challenging: an honest relationship.

To understand that turning away from sainthood is turning towards your humanity.

To be wary of anything that elevates you up from the solid ground into which your roots are driven.

To be open to all things that make your eyes widen with awe and wonder – especially if it’s your reflection in the clarity of your actions.

To be your own best friend, lover, and partner to the last moments of that marathon, that walk, that day, that breath.

Thank you for practicing,


both hands clapping

In all this chasing after concepts of emptiness, it’s easy to lose sight of the essentials.

“Old Lady O-San” was an enlightened student of Zen master Tetsumon.  She was later tested by Hakuin who posed the koan about one hand clapping.  Ever the pragmatist she replied:

Rather than listen
to Hakuin’s sound
of one hand clapping,
clap both hands
and do business!

from Zen Antics: 100 Stories of Enlightenment transl. & ed. by Thomas Cleary

Shall we get on with our lives?  What needs two hands to grasp, hold, hug, support?

Be kind, be sweet, take a stand, get grouchy, and if he’s not available go for dopey – he’s always been my favourite anyway.

See the universe through the reeds, the forest through the trees.

Thank you for practicing,