Thursday, October 19, 2006

I wrote this to someone who's going through a tough time, it is advice I need to keep near me as well.

What if (and here I own the projection fully) you stop looking at what you didn't turn out to be and base your life in the middle of where you are? I hear stories about people in Africa who had arms cut off during the wars, terrors, uprisings, whatever, around Sudan, wherever, and I think: I'd have to stop and look and say, I have to start living as a man who has no arms, will never have arms, and live from that point - giving up the dreams of a man who had one or two arms. That man is dead and I am alive and this is where and how I am. Aikido talks about "taking the hit as a gift" and that is a tough discipline. Losing the dreams, hopes, stuff we felt was our as a right or an outcome, And taking the hit of what we have, whatever it is, learning to balancing with being off balance, learning to take like as a gift with no arms, and somehow believing there is a gift to give that comes from having no arms.

Saints can do that, and I believe everybody can be a saint, even if just for a short time now and then: in those transient moments when we see clearly that everything is a gift, even losing, even leaving it all behind: still it is all somehow seen as lit from within.

When I was being checked in '87 to see if the skin cancer had spread into my lymphatic system I went into a cat-scan machine to look via nuclear medicine and see where the melanoma was draining, and the crew were all recent Asian immigrant with heavily accented English who were so very kind to me, and I was waiting in the middle of the machine while the tests were going on, thinking I might just die soon in the middle of a web of such soft compassion in a place I had never looked for, never expected, never wanted.

This is from a sermon I did awhile back:

"OK, to finish with a Zen tale. A man is walking in a field when he sees a lion coming after him. He runs and the lion runs. He comes to a cliff and decides to try to climb down. He looks at the bottom of the cliff and there are two tigers looking at him hungrily. The cliff is steep and the ground is shaky. He looks up and the lion in climbing down, He looks down and the tigers have set up a picnic blanket and are saying grace. He starts to fall down the cliff and catches hold of a small branch on the side of the cliff. Then as he is catching his breath, a small rat runs over to the branch and bites it in two, as the branch begins to break the man sees a small red berry attached to the end of the branch and reaches out to take the berry and put it quickly in his mouth. He says, 'Ah, Delicious!' "

The congregation was generally underwhelmed by the example, but it is a very important story for me. We're always between the lion and tigers, eaten on every side, and death is not an non-option, as much as prefer to avoid that truth, but there are still such sweet berries in the very middle of the way!

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