Erasing the Blackboard

I remember being so excited in elementary school when it was my turn to erase the blackboard at the end of the day. Making all the learning and thinking disappear, almost without a trace. It was rhythmic and calming pushing the felted eraser across the board. Or up and down. Or in big circular swirls. Words and numbers, assignments, messages and mistakes blurred into little specks of powdery chalk. Maybe what was there would be remembered. But maybe not. It was important at the time of writing it on the board. If the teacher used colored chalk it was really important. Or maybe even something to be anticipated with excitement! Whatever was written there was erased at the end of the day and the slate was left clean for a new day and new things.

At the end of the day I often find myself sitting quietly going through everything that my brain held onto during the day. Kind of like looking at that school day filled blackboard. There is much I can easily dismiss, erase. Some of what was written there is a little harder to completely erase. I have to go through those things by steps, gradually sifting through the layers till it can be blown away with by a thought. Some things seem to have been written there with non-erasable chalk. These things can almost be completely erased, but not quite. Just enough shadow writing remains that I can always read exactly what is there.

In the process of my daily attempt to sort through things I have been hanging on to, I feel as if I am becoming lighter, less bogged down. I sort, compartmentalize and throw out millions of little things. Like the process of erasing a school blackboard the background becomes mostly clean, uncluttered, receptive, fresh.

As this happens I make room for the thoughts, feelings, ideas, “things” that do seem important for me to write down and look at again free of the clutter of daily hording of unneeded and unwanted information and emotions.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Courage. Resolve……

In Buddhism the most important of these are referred to as the Four Radiant Abodes. These are human qualities that, upon reflection, are sublimely simple. Universal expressions of a heart that is open to the world and all living things. We know them as:

LOVE    COMPASSION    JOY    PEACE

I see these qualities daily in the faces and expressions of young children. We feel it in the embrace of a loved one. We see it in the eyes of others.  Something lights up when we are in the presence of someone who is filled with these qualities. These qualities shine outward from the heart. We see, experience how these things can transform others. And when we are touched by them we are transformed too.

These are a few of the things that are permanently written on my blackboard. But, sometimes, during the day they get written over. Lost. Hidden. Sometimes maybe even forgotten about. I erase the blackboard each day to bring them back into my consciousness in a more prominent light. Hoping not to write over them so much the following day. Because that does happen when frustration or anger surfaces. When disappointment or tiredness takes hold. When there is stress or worry. When things in life make me feel rushed and I become frayed around the edges. When I feel let down or uncared for. Lots of things get written on my blackboard, pushing other things to the background.

In their shadow purpose, love, compassion, joy and peace can cause me to form a lot of attachments to people and things. So equanimity is there along side them in counterbalance. To let some things go. To let the thoughts and emotions pass over me and not so much through me. Caution ever the reminder, equanimity can lead to excessive detachment, so it is held into balance by love, compassion, joy and peace.

With the blackboard erased and the mind at rest we are peaceful and our hearts are open. In this space of equanimity we meet others in peace and we are filled with love. When this love meets others in pain and suffering it transforms into compassion. When this love meets happiness it becomes joy. Equanimity and love, compassion, joy and peace in balance. We become transformed into our highest state of being.

At the end of the day I try to take the time to erase my blackboard and find renewal. The I feel as if I have come home to the dwelling place where I can rest, residing in the abode of immeasurable love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity.

crazy garden

one garden at my physical home!! 

There is no faith, religion, culture, class or race that owns these qualities. They are in each one of us as human beings. We all carry within us the seeds of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. It is however, up to us to nurture and tend them with understanding, patience, tolerance, acceptance, humility, acceptance, respect…..supporting and caring for their growth.

On my blackboard, the slate of my being, never to be fully erased, are the life driving qualities of love, compassion, joy, peace and equanimity. They are the pillars of the place where I dwell in my heart. Sometimes, the goings on of daily life write over them, obscuring them, dimming their clarity, but they remain the foundation of my human-ness. As I take time to let go of unwanted, unneeded clutter caused by longing, desire, uncertainty, anger, fear, jealousy……so many things, erasing them away, I come face to face with what is the true foundation of who I want to be, who I can be, who I am.

I strive to do this every day. It is a goal. Always a learning process. Always humbling and grounding.

 

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

Flowing

“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave,

and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you,

there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.

To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is—

is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other,

we do not really live very satisfactorily;

that there can really be life only where there really is,

in just this sense, love.”

Frederick Buechner

thur sun

(photograph by me, Kathryn Howlett)

Facebook is interesting to me. I have reconnected with friends from long ago, become friends with people I have never met, found a voice I didn’t know I had, and decided I like taking photographs.

I posted the above quote a few weeks ago because I found it beautiful. Stunning. Passionate. Full of promise. A kind of grounding to reality….to what is important.

Some friends didn’t “get” it. “We are not bound to each other.” “I only live for myself.” “I don’t care if others have peace, joy or freedom.”

There was a moment, when reading these other reflections, when I found myself holding my breath. Really? Not everyone feels, believes, that we ARE bound to one another? That the other’s peace an joy and freedom allows us have and feel peace and joy and freedom?

It matters to me. I may live a different kind of life from others in different places here in the US and in the world….. I may have more, or not as much. My sorrows and my hurts may be caused by different things. My joys and happiness may be triggered by different things. My goals and ambitions may be different. My fears and worries may be different.

What is the same is that we all have those feelings, those ambitions. What is the same is we love, are loved, have been loved, will be loved. Someone’s heart sang when we were born. Someone will cry and hurt when we die. We are bound by love.

The reality, not as we expect it to be, but how it really is, tells us that “unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we really do not live very satisfactorily.”

Fundamentally I believe this. I understand completely there are bad and evil people out there who do horrible things to people…and it makes this idea of being bound to everyone by and through love, very difficult.

Yet, I stand by it.