Oneness We are Made Of

Photo by Aaron Burden
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The matter we are made of is as old as the universe, and yet because the life cycle of the longest lived cells in our bodies is seven years, we cannot be older than that. We are at the same time young and ancient, growing older while continually being renewed.

As such we are part of the dragon of change, our lives like waves in the waters of an ancient sea, rolling forward with a momentum not our own. Zen master Dongshan put it like this:

It is now me, I now am not it.
One must see it this way…
to merge with all that is.

But leaving aside the matter of physical existence for the moment, what is “seeing it this way”? What eyes besides these have we to see it with?

At the very least we have sensory experience and its echo in our memories, or perhaps its resonance in our beings. But who is it that actually remembers? Zen masters Huineng and Nanyang once said:

Senses discerning objects are not consciousness.
True seeing has no emotional consciousness
or binding attachments.

So whatever it is within us that remembers, expresses, interacts with the world, it is free by nature, having “no binding attachments”.

Perhaps we can think of our lives as notes held in some great song, or melodies carried by the supporting harmonies of all the living, whether through rests (when we feel alone) or modulations of key (when all is in flux around us) as our dissonances (conflicts and growth) are worked out to find resolution.

If so, we are anything but alone. We are profoundly connected, or boundless (another way to translate “shunyata”, the Sanskrit word for emptiness). Two ancient Buddhist scriptures put it this way:

Rivers, birds, trees and groves
all invoke the Buddha and the teaching.
Infinite Light Scripture
Lands teach, beings teach,
all things in all times teach.
Flower Ornament Scripture

So we hear through our physical beings what “all-that-is” perpetually says of itself, but we still see it through our own eyes, our own narratives, the habitual thought patterns our minds create to deal with the sheer immensity of existence. Zen master Dongshan once said:

When you hear the sound with your eyes
then you’ll know.
Even if you yourself don’t hear…
you shouldn’t hinder that which does.

So narratives can be a hindrance, but they can also be eye opening; they may also be individual or societal. They might aptly be compared to Indra’s net: an infinitely large interweaving of reflective jewels that each imperfectly reflect all the others. If so, then where is our grounding in all that is seen?

Perhaps the only true seeing is seeing as part of the dragon of change, with our own eyes and through the eyes of others. Perhaps it is in the humility of listening to every perspective, no matter how small, while thinking in accord with the heart of “all-that-is” through a practice of compassion…

Grounding, sanity, compassion are only found in the seeing of oneness.

The fluttering moth,
bathed in the electromagnetic spectrum,
expresses in its seeming wayward movements
a wisdom we may never know for ourselves.

What about you? Have you really seen the world of which you are part?


Quietly Rains

Photo by Bibhukalyan Acharya
Photo by Bibhukalyan Acharya on Pexels
Ah quiet heart, my truest love,
you move in mists that fly above,
and so the hills you touch are filled with beauty:
All misty gray and dusky green,
as winds above tell me of the sea,
for so you speak, you come to me, to woo me!
So near above at early morn,
with promise of oncoming storm:
the winds pick up and stir the trees around me:
In drops still light I know your heart,
in rushing clouds your passion starts,
and I am roused as showers fall around me!
Ah my Bright One, all dark and veiled;
So dark and lovely, with eyes withheld,
Though far above me,
I know your touch—
Yours am I still!

She Who Knew the Sea

Photo by Allie Smith
Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash
“Fair one” called her tender heart
to she who drawn by moon must rise
to she who met her like a kiss
to she whose lovely ocean eyes
would make her wish they’d never part
“I see you” said her child’s soul
“So lovely” with a longing sigh
“I know you” though she’d ever long
to have her near, forever nigh:
her mother who had ever heard her call

Way of Waters

Photo by Luca Bravo
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash
In smallness of rain drops
smallness that brims
that sweetens waters, enlivens lands…
In joy at rain’s touch
joy that inspires
scents of the soil, aromas of plants…
In the soft heart of water
is a way for all souls
to unreachable sky, through hollows of earth.

A Poet’s Sun

Photo by Joshua Sortino
Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash
Magical doorway, world passage, life gateway…
Through one of these she shone, was seen,
who shining sees the tiniest of living beings…
In the space of a night,
spilling into stillness untouched by light…
she was the morning!
A poet saw her, in a few fleeting moments, and let her in.

Storm Cloaked

Photo by Stein Egil Liland
Photo by Stein Egil Liland on Pexels
Cloaked, alight with storm she came:
veiled in mist and spray, salt and brine.
Tempestuous churn with milky crests
raised her turquoise waves, in glassy thrusts!
She came just as she is, I had to go:
to dive, to dare from igneous coast,
and learn what living rock must know!

Winter Song

Photo by Kristjan Kotar
Photo by Kristjan Kotar on Unsplash
At dark of year, my Winter Light,
my Ever-Cold, my Clear-and-Bright:
above your clouds so lovely shroud the white sky…
And in the cold my heart delights,
in freezing wind and frost and ice,
for how my soul lights up to meet your bright eyes!
With falling flakes all dusty white,
that flit and fly and drift in flight,
in restful, rhythmic rounds my spirit dances…
Then all my limbs must come alive,
against the cold my heart must thrive,
for so your whispery, blissful sky romances!
Ah falling flakes and drifting snow,
I listen as you whisper so,
to kiss of flake that flits in flight, I answer:
Come my Dark One, Ever-Cold;
Come and meet me Bright-of-Soul!
Come and meet me Winter Light, I am your own!

Empty Vessel

Photo by Evgeny Nelmin
Photo by Evgeny Nelmin on Unsplash
I am nothing to your loveliness,
empty vessel,
meant for this.
Nothing holding,
offering all,
I yearn so til I’m full…
If all I was could be for you,
yet all I’m not
is what makes room:
your touch my life,
your breath my soul,
your rain and wind my essence;
your sound my pulse,
your scent my joy,
my every sense for incense…

Waters of Inspiration

Photo by Michael Block
Photo by Michael Block on Pexels

Inspiration flows in us like deep waters, like secret springs. Its waters flow freely, even when it takes effort to draw them, and they are always shaping us inwardly until we do. Listening to these waters we learn their secrets. Living in relationship with them we evolve with our creative work. And like water, our work gives us life.

So what can we learn from our own inspired waters? Consider the following:

Water quietly shapes channels over time: it always looks for the easiest way, and easiness is exactly what it teaches the channel. When its flow is slow, gentle, indulgent, the channel becomes elaborate and elegant. When fast, its channel becomes straight, deep, and deliberate.

What form does your own work take? What form has your practice given you?

But the movement of inspiration is not always visible on the surface. It is more often like the waters of a spring, which can neither be forced nor withheld: they must flow whether enjoyed or missed, but they must be drawn to be shared. In a hexagram titled “The Well”, the I Ching says:

The village may change, but not the well.
There is coming and going, drawing and welling,
but never any loss or gain for the spring.
I Ching, Hexagram 48

So the well is generous, yet with too much drawing it can run dry. It’s only by easiness that water deepens or makes beautiful. It’s because of its easiness that it is able to continue its work indefinitely. Water is playful, always seeking with soft determination, and its laughter is a music we miss if we have not heard it for long.

Have you been playful in your work lately? Has it come easily or with difficulty? You might try listening again to water’s song.

But easiness does not mean feeble. Water is relentless, even in its softness, and meticulous. It finds the edges, delights in them, and wears them down in its passing until it finds the way that will yield to it. Whether in ebb or flow its work is in everything it touches, its passion in its persistence. The Tao Te Ching says:

The highest good is like water:
it gives life to all things but does not strive…
In living, be close as water to the land.
In thought, go deep as water into the heart.
Tao Te Ching, Verse 8

So as you apply yourself to your creative work, remember that water shows us a patient process. As a shaper of beauty and a source of life it flows of kindness. Melodious of sound and clear of color, it remains childlike. Can you be a vessel for the waters of inspiration? You are your own master work.