Starfish

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”
~Anne Lamott

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
― Loren Eiseley

It’s a big wide world with lots going on. Billions of people all over this pale blue dot wake up to a life of ease or suffering, joy or sorrow. There’s a million things “right” in the world. And a million things “wrong”.

Despair and hope dwell and linger in everyone’s life. Some days we try to close the door against despair. Other days we open the door to hope.

In this story the wise man walking along the beach knows what a huge act of hope and faith he is undertaking tossing star fish, one at a time, back into the ocean in the hopes of offering each one a chance at life. Something inside of him was incredibly strong, calling on him, to act for the benefit of one starfish each time.

 “It made a difference for that one.”

Isn’t that all any of us can do at any one time? Lift each other up one by one. To reach out again and again and to just try our best.

I cannot, even in my dreams, believe I can make much difference in this world. But I do know when I go to work and hug a child, it matters. I know when my husband and I hold each other in joy or sorrow, it matters. I know that my children knowing they have a home to “come home” to matters. I know that when I look someone in the eye and call them on a racist or misogynist comment or joke, that it matters. My taking action, one action at a time, matters.

And I know, like the man on the beach, that each star fish is worth the effort and hope just like I know each person is worth, and deserving of, the same kind of effort and hope.

One by one, even against the odds. It is about what we are called to do. This showing up, this reaching out to lift others up, this hope that is born in the light of love, and hope, and patience that glows in each one of us.

Again, from Loren Eisley:

Looking so, across the centuries and the millennia, toward the animal men of the past, one can see a faint light, like a patch of sunlight moving over the dark shadows on a forest floor. It shifts and widens, it winks out, it comes again, but it persists. It is the human spirit, the human soul, however transient, however faulty men may claim it to be. In its coming man had no part. It merely came, that curious light, and man, the animal, sought to be something that no animal had been before. Cruel he might be, vengeful he might be, but there had entered into his nature a curious wistful gentleness and courage. It seemed to have little to do with survival, for such men died over and over. They did not value life compared to what they saw in themselves — that strange inner light which has come from no man knows where, and which was not made by us. It has followed us all the way from the age of ice, from the dark borders of the ancient forest into which our footprints vanish… Man may grow until he towers to the skies, but without this light he is nothing, and his place is nothing. Even as we try to deny the light, we know that it has made us, and what we are without it remains meaningless.

Let that Light that is in you guide you. Show up. Bend down and toss the starfish back into the ocean in an act of love and kindness. Simply because for that one star fish it made a difference.

merton

Like those star fish the wise man believed worthy, so is each human being.

*Readings This Week

*NEW!! Little Works in Progress

 

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Listening to Grandmother

This blog is called Songs The Sunrise Sings because I often wake up before or as the sun rises. I find a great comfort and sense of peace in watching the dawn of a new day: of hearing the sleeping world wake up. I spend several minutes in stillness, just listening. Even in winter, with doors and windows closed, the sounds of songs and greetings for the new morning can be heard.

I take the time to center myself for the new day. Some days I feel tired, or perhaps unwell, and it is difficult to find this centering. I am too attached to my body and my worries or fears. Other days it is as if a song flows from my heart and with great ease I send out love and wishes for all beings to be safe, healthy, free from fear and worry, happy and at ease.

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…..
humans, animals, even birds….
they all need happiness.”
~Grandmother Tsering Dolma Gyaltong,
International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers

I have such strong, passionate thoughts and feelings about this. Yesterday a news reporter coined what may be a new word, “othering”. As in when we begin to refer to people we do not agree with, dislike, mistrust, fear and or doubt. We think about them as, or refer to them as, the “others”.

“Othering”

Grandmother Tsering says “NO” to “othering”. She teaches us, perhaps reminds us, that ALL need our love, our prayers, our effort to help ensure their happiness. Not wishing them punishment, incarceration, revenge, harm, to be invisible, to be irrelevant or insignificant, not calling for them to be oppressed or repressed. But, for each one to have and experience happiness. She calls for us, as we wake up in the morning, to send our prayers and wishes for happiness to all. And that is a tall order when we live in a world that is so full of fear and greed, misinformation, arrogance. A world where bombs become a solution, violence a means to an end, incarceration as solution rather than education and rehabilitation, where one religion strives to reign over others. In a world that judges by clothing, gender, sex, race, age, mistakes, status and beliefs. A world where we take and take and take.

…we, they, all deserve, and need, happiness….

prayergreenI have my own routine at night and in the morning. I follow a set of words and change who I am directing the thoughts towards. First to myself, then to someone I love deeply, then to someone who plays a significant role in my life as mentor or such. Next I think of someone who is an “acquaintance”, then to someone who is a challenging presence in my life. At the end, the prayer/ thoughts go out to ALL people and living things. ALL. Known, unknown, feared or revered. It’s just what I do. It grounds me. It reminds me of what I hold dear and value.

I know something like this isn’t for everyone. This isn’t something I have always done. I had to be ready to embrace this, to work at it, to allow it to become part of who I am. It wasn’t always possible for me to do this. But…it has changed me. So I offer it forward in hopes that more thoughts and prayers for the happiness and well being of all sentient beings can be put out there in a world where there is so much suffering and pain.

Readings This Week

“Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need hap

Every morning I get up and I pray for all sentient beings…humans, animals, even birds– they all need happiness.

A Wave

Hokusai_-_Eljudo_-_The_Great_Wave_at_Kanagawa.tiff

Hokusai, The Great Wave (Wikicommons)

You may have seen this print before. It is famous. It is called “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” The artist was Katsushika Hokusai, October 31, 1760 – May 10, 1849.

Roger Keyes, art historian and consultant, wrote for an exhibition in 2006: “For Hokusai, transmission was what art was all about. It’s what he got out of art, and it’s what he hoped to accomplish through art. It was about transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.”

Transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.

With obvious respect and gratitude, Keyes wrote the following poem. For his wife!! I think it is very moving. What do you think?

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –shells, buildings, people, fish,mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah
or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

Check out what I’ve been reading This Week

Sometimes Really Means All The Time

Sometimes I struggle. With lots of things. My mind is a generator of turbulent, mercurial thoughts, stories, fantasies, beliefs….. On an emotional level I sometimes struggle with keeping all these things compartmentalized, organized, restrained, understood, processed, freed. Writing this post was like this today.  (It actually takes several days to write one of these.) This is incarnation eleven.

It started when I thought about the quote I have known about for a long time: “”We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” So, I looked into it. No one ever said it. Long story short, it ends up being a misinterpretation of an ancient Buddhist text. I’m going to leave it there. No, not really. …I am going to clarify that the original writing stated it is not what we think that shapes us, but rather what we do in life that shapes us.

And then I found this poem by Diane Ackerman,

“I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life
—wherever and in whatever form
it may dwell—on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

As I read this I thought it was beautiful. And then that whirlwind generator in my head fired up some passively floating thoughts and a vortex began to spin. I think all these things too. I really do. So many of the wonderful promises in the poem are what I tell myself everyday, although not quite so beautifully expressed.

balance

Frabel Glass, Phipps Conservatory, photo by me

And this is is where the (pretend quote) about “we become what we think” flew out of the vortex and into my blog world. Here is what my mind thought:

“Wait. Is that true? All I have to do is THINK something and it makes me so?”

Something responded, “No. Of course not. It is not that simple.”

It isn’t simply a matter of believing I do not hate. I have to actually live a life that interacts with, responds to others without hate. It isn’t simply a matter of believing I am a guardian of Nature. I have to BE a guardian. I have to tangibly protect, daily, the environment. I have to embody, physically, being a healer of misery, a messenger of wonder, an architect of peace. I have to come to terms with what it means to not just believe I honor and respect all life, but to live a life that demonstrates, without a doubt, that I do respect and honor all life.

“When deeds speak, words are nothing.”
~Africian Proverb

Make the most of today. Translate your good intentions into actual deeds.
~Grenville Kleiser

Can I do that? Can I succeed? Can I be a person who does, lives, those things and not just believes in them? Am I someone who lives what I think I believe? Am I able to be the person I think I am? Hope I am? Dream myself to be?

What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes, all the time, I need to do more and not just think.

Do not be wise in words – be wise in deeds.
~Jewish Proverb

Sounds

I wake up quite early. No matter the season, it is often still dark outside. Our bed faces the east, and there is a double door along the wall that is almost centered with the bed. Over the years the bed has faced many directions, but this is my favorite, east. I like to have my yoga mat facing east too. When I contemplate this, I think it is because it represents the beginning of the day, the coming of light, waking up. Looking out through that door in near darkness, complete darkness, moonlit darkness, fog, sun light, rain, snow,…..brings me a sense of peacefulness.

Sunday

During any season, with the door opened or closed, I can hear the murmurings of wild life waking up as the sun slowly begins to show her light at the horizon. Depending on the weather, the wind may make the leaves sing or the trees groan as they bend in response to the forces. A variety of animals trill, squeal, snort, howl in the early morning as “breakfast” is caught and consumed. Birds wake one by one. The slow, soft start of a myriad of songs and sounds gradually grows to a wild cacophonous symphony of Nature.

This is one of my greatest pleasures. Listening to all of Nature on Turkey Hill Road awaken.

The past few weeks there has been a new sound, a bird call that I am unfamiliar with. I think it is perhaps a young hawk circling the barely light sky looking for a small morsel to fill it’s belly. One morning I opened the screen to the crisp air and looked upwards, hoping to catch a clue as to the bird. I couldn’t see anything. I know I could use a bird song/call identification website to figure it out. But I haven’t and most likely will not.

Why?

In day to day life I like to “know” things. What’s next, what’s the plan, who will do what, when do I need to be somewhere, the answer to a question, how much money is in the bank, do I need gas, are my children safe and happy, is there life after death, why am I here? I NEED to know. Not knowing is not okay. Not knowing often brings Anxiety. Stress. Worry. Fear.

What ever this bird is, I do not NEED to know. Knowing if it is a hawk or another bird will not make a difference to or change my enjoyment and wonder. Lying in bed, in darkness, and just listening and not knowing, and not needing to know is comforting. The comfort takes away the tightening that comes with organizing, planning, preparing, thinking about, enacting, being responsible, worrying, anticipating, supporting, problem solving, all the activities of the day and leaves me with being okay, for a moment or several, with not knowing. It is difficult to find times during the course of the day when it is okay not to want to know for the purpose of feeling prepared and informed, safe and secure, at ease and calm.

It is a small, trivial thing, yet I accept the gift of this bird and her call as she flies through the barely lit sky. Unseen to me. Unknown to me. And I accept gratefully this moment, and this small  gift of not knowing.

“The less you know, the more fresh things become.”  Toni Packer