“For one person to love another, this is the most difficult of all our tasks.” Rilke
Over the weekend I was feeling unmotivated and uninspired after a burst of writing several magazine articles and working on my memoir about moving to France. I had come to a difficult chapter and felt completely stuck. The Buddha said that what we dwell on becomes the shape of our mind. If we dwell on ill will, either inwardly or outwardly, all that we see is broken, flawed, and imperfect.
The current political climate in the world, and in the United States in particular, didn’t help my mood, nor did the actual weather. It’s been unusually gray and rainy here. Even my three cats haven’t wanted to go outside. I found myself staring out the window over my desk at our pond, full to the brim. The poule d’eau (water chickens or moorhens) have almost lost their home as the water continues to rise, not unlike some of the islands around the world that have recently all but submerged due to climate change.
I have found the only way to snap out of such a mood, which rarely occurs, is through movement, so I drove to the nearest village during a brief pause in the rain and walked around, camera in hand. One step at a time I began moving, stirring and shifting the weight that I’d been carrying in my heart. When we let our shadows emerge, we step into the Bardo. Tibetan Buddhists use the word Bardo to describe the place where we linger when we’re in between worlds. It’s a sign that there’s something to heal and, hopefully, learn from.
In a radio interview I’d recently listened to, transpersonal psychologist John Welwood commented, “…All of the wounding we carry with us is relational in nature. It has to do with not feeling fully loved. What lies at core of every relationship problem, whether between two or a multitude, is a wound of the heart that not only affects our personal relations, but the quality of life in our world as a whole.” Fixing the separations between us begins with talking about where we agree, not where we disagree.
The French spiritual teacher, Arnaud Desjardins said it best. “There are no bad people, only badly loved people.”
If we don’t heal ourselves first we will continue to project our wounds onto the world.
“It is no more possible to live in the future, than it is to live in the past. If life is not now, it is never.”
We were invited to a birthday party for our neighbor, Jeanette Ducourneau, who was born on December 31, 1937. A group of fifty friends and family members gathered in the foyer rural in the village of Clermont Pouyguilles to celebrate her 80th birthday. We first met Jeanette 11 years ago when she unlocked the door to the old colombage ruin on her family’s property which we now call home. It was an honor to be included in the celebration that began on New Year’s Eve day and continued into the early hours of January 1st, heralded by the first and largest moon of the year.
The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year arrival date back to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians the first new moon following the vernal equinox (a day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness) began the new year. In Egypt the new year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The Chinese new year, meanwhile, has been a movable celebration, occurring with the second new moon after the winter solstice. In 46 B.C Julius Caesar named January 1 as the first day of the year to honor the month’s namesake, Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future at the same time.
In his book Cosmos, Carl Sagan wrote, “Consider the pale blue dot we call Earth. Home. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived here — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
While driving home just as the full moon was rising, a shiver of clarity passed through me. I realized that because nothing matters, everything matters. While hurtling through the immeasurable Universe, the Earth has already disappeared into vast shadows with me and all that I hold dear on it. While nothing is connected except by the magic of gravity, we are all connected by the miracle of grace. Right here, right now, every little atom that bumps into every other atom matters because the special circumstances that create each moment of our day will never happen in the same way again. We will never be together in the same way again on this mote of dust we call home.
In the theosophy of light,
The logical universe
Ceases to be anything more
Than the dead body of an angel.
What is substance? Our substance
Is whatever we feed our angel.
The perfect incense for worship
Is camphor, whose flames leave no ashes.
“Suchness” by Kenneth Rexroth
(Suchness in Mahayana Buddhism means “reality,” or the way things really are. It’s understood that the true nature of reality is ineffable, beyond description and conceptualization)
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