Tea House

Buddhist Creative Writing and Inspiration

Category: Living Mindfulness

Who knows what else might come?

Ratnadevi

‘Ready’, called the egg when it was laid. ‘Now I’m ready!’ called the tadpole when it had hatched. ‘Now I’m completely ready! ‘ called the creature, animal when it had two legs.

‘Now, finally, I’m absolutely completely ready! ‘ called the creature when it had four legs and a long tail. ‘Who knows what else might come…’, said the frog, when he was ready.

(author unknown)

Warm enough now to sit outside at the allotment, in cross-legged meditation position, contemplating eggs. How we blew them empty, half a century ago. And then painted them, under instruction of mum, turned into a high priestess transmitting ancient wisdom. A dozen of them attached with cotton thread to a willow branch – so light they are, swaying in the blow of our breath. We also boiled eggs and dyed them in luminous tulip colours, magic sulphurous odours filling the kitchen. Who will eat them all? Seemingly rituals are allowed to be wasteful and non-utilitarian.

At the allotment again, with our 5 years old granddaughter. Eagerly she collects the treasures the Easter Bunny has hidden among the fresh green, variously shaped leafs of the perennials along the borders and in the little nesting places where the fruit trees branch. When she has found them all she wants to find more. While she gets busy with her grandpa doing a little weeding and digging, I re-distribute a clutch of those metal-foil covered chocolate eggs. ‘Some kind of bunny has hidden some treasures for you’ I announce. Her eyes light up and she bounces up and down: ‘A Granny Bunny!’

Children manage to make magic at any time, under any circumstance. For us adults, a surprise find may open that door to us: like finding a ‘real’ bird’s egg. That speckled perfection, clearly containing something. Some part of us may awaken, curious, wondering and intent on making meaning, but perhaps not only in the literal way. Yes, it’s probably a blackbird’s egg, but really: What is it? What is inside? What wants to be born?

Maybe we don’t have to wait for those chance happenings or the ritually planned surprise of a gift. What would it take for us now to tap into that child-like aptitude for wonder-filled appreciation, on a daily basis? There is a way of approaching meditation that does that for me: sitting and being open to the ‘unknowingness’ of this moment, and the next.

Who is ill?

Ratnadevi

When I tell people that I’ve had a cold for over 5 weeks, I often hear: ‘Oh – there is lot of that going round , I know several people who have been coughing for weeks.’ Being reminded of the fact that I am not alone in my plight is reassuring. We are all part of the family of humans whose bodies are vehicles for the propagation of the most successful breed on earth: micro organisms such as viruses and bacteria.

But we can’t rely on others alone for compassion and reassurance. How can we be our own best counsel and friend? Here is an example of an inner dialogue, where I try to meet my need for empathy…

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Make Something

Ratnadevi

When I joined Facebook a few months ago I was slightly concerned that it might turn into another of those addictions, like binge watching television series on Netflix (something I have to watch!). But so far, it hasn’t turned out that way, I am glad to say. The holiday adventures of a distant friend just aren’t that much of a page-turner, as it were. But every so often I come across a little Facebook gem; a link to an interesting article or a witty exchange that stays in my mind. Like this one, about a week before Christmas:

G: Don’t buy anything.

Me: Make something.

A: Like, what???

Till very recently, people constantly made things. They sewed, knitted, wove, embroidered and darned their clothes. They carved, hammered and incised tools, toys and weapons. They shaped stone into houses; clay into pots; grass into baskets; flour into bread; fruit and vegetables into conserves and mammoth ivory into talismans. Their bodies, in turn were shaped by the repetitious actions; as were their minds and communities.

I am sure some of this shaving, whittling and pounding was a bit of a grind at times. People must have got repetitive strain injury. (In an experiment a stonemason using Stone Age tools took 400 hours to make a replica of the 30 cm high figure of the “Lion Man.”) Maybe it was a bit mind-numbing as well, even if it was done in community, with plenty of chatting, chanting and storytelling going on. But it was also an enviably healthy way to spend one’s time: rooted in sensory experience, with a sense of purpose and belonging. The writers Richard Maybe and Kathleen Jamie visited an exhibition of ‘Ice Age Art’ in London in 2013, and, looking at small sculptures bearing the imprint of their Palaeolithic makers, agreed that they ‘felt something strangely akin to homesickness’.

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This is just to say

Ratnadevi

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

By William Carlos Williams

I was reminded of this poem recently when it was recited in the film Paterson, by Jim Jarmusch. The movie is as counter-cultural as it gets: nothing (or almost nothing) more dramatic happens than a bus breaking down. It has no sex in it, but breathes tenderness, right from the starting scene, where you see a couple waking up, entwined in each other’s’ arms; streaks of golden-white morning light playing on their skins. You see this scene repeated throughout the film, with variations in posture and light, as the days of the week unfold. He is a bus driver in Paterson, the town William Carlos Williams lived and wrote in, and also writes poetry, jotted down in spare moments around his shifts. She is a designer/artist in waiting, developing her style at home, by painting every large enough surface: crockery, curtains, clothes and even homemade cupcakes in black and white patterns.

This slow-paced, meditative film has generally been very well received, which, in itself, gives me hope for our media and action saturated world. Paterson, the film’s unpublished “hero,” doesn’t own a mobile phone or other screen device. He still writes everything by hand, into a notebook with un-ruled pages. As the camera bouncily follows the familiar bus route you are impelled to view the scene through a poet’s eye. Ordinary house walls in juxtaposition to other ordinary house walls, the rambling conversation among passengers or with his colleagues are given significance as potential material for poetry. They are worth taking note of.

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If you think of the dark

Ratnadevi

the-dark_1

I see this poem by Carol Ann Duffy, the current UK poet laureate on our bathroom wall every day; it helps me to keep my cool when faced with the many concerns of 21st century living that easily spark fear. For example: the recent election of Donald Trump as the American president. In a delightfully whimsical tone, the poet counsels us in how to deal with fear: you simply change the way you look at things. There is no absolute reality out there called “the dark”—why not see it as a “park?” Similar sound, and still pitch black, but it is transformed into more familiar, manageable territory, particularly in the light provided by the moon. We’ve bounced it up there ourselves in fact; we’ve made use of our ingenious magical powers, fortified by rhyme (ball, at all).

And then there is a pause, where we hold our breath: has it worked?

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Wagging the Tail at Digital Dilemmas

Ratnadevi

Kelvin River. From Panoramio

Kelvin River. From Panoramio

Last week I had a Skype call with Raymond Lam, Buddhistdoor’s senior writer, to discuss my new blogging venture. At some point I mentioned that I have trouble attracting interest for some of my courses. He replied that Facebook is now what the telephone and email have been in previous decades: if you don’t use it you are off the radar. He wasn’t the first person to stress the importance of social media for promoting one’s work, but something about his youthful, calm and confident presence, sitting there with this headphones in his sun-filled office in Hong Kong, tipped me into action.

Someone actually had already set up a Facebook page for me about a year ago, but I lacked confidence and conviction to use it. I mentioned the issue to my peer-coaching partner in Bangkok, Kanya Likanasudh, and she, bless her, taught me how to use Facebook via screen sharing in zoom. “And you need more friends!” she said.

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