Saturday, May 28, 2011

Small Choices, Beautiful Music

We humans are particularly adept at mucking up the waters, complicating that which doesn’t need to be complicated, confusing what doesn’t need to be confused. So it’s wise to regularly sweep the slate clean and return to the basics. I found the novel, Breakfast With Buddha, by Roland Merullo, helpful in this regard.

Merullo brings us a delightful character in Volya Rinpoche, a Siberian monk on a road trip across America. In his halting English, Rinpoche shares many spiritual concepts in plain terms with Otto, his unwilling and often disgruntled tour guide. Case in point, a discussion of free will.

“Many times every day,” Rinpoche explains, “you can go one way or the other way. You can go with anger or not go. Go with greed or not go. Go with hate or not go...These feel like small things, small choices, but every day, across one life, across many, many lives (you can) choose the good way, again and again and again, in what you are thinking and what you are doing.”

So, when life seems overwhelming and I lose sight of the big picture, I can consciously zero in on what’s right in front of me. Each and every moment offers me options, and choosing among them is really all I need to do.

I arrive at an appointment to find my name not on the schedule. I notice tears in someone’s eyes. A glass slips from my hand and shatters on the floor. I witness unkindness. I’m late for work and behind an exceptionally slow driver. I walk through the beauty of nature with my thoughts drifting elsewhere.

In every situation, options are available to me. Which will I choose? How will I direct this precious life energy given me?

While most of us generally try to do the right thing, this kind of specificity requires an awareness that makes it a life practice indeed. Yet, according to Merullo’s Rinpoche, by repeatedly choosing wisely, an inner quiet can begin to develop. “And,” Rinpoche explains, “that quiet space gives you a chance to see deep, deep into the world if you want to.”

Do we want to? Will we make room in our lives for deep looking? Another choice.

When asked about violence and hatred in the world, Rinpoche's answer is also simple. "I don't know the why. I know the is. This is the world and always the world...Inside the big world that you cannot control, you have the small world of you that you can control. In that small world, if you look, you can see whether to go this way toward good, or that other way.”

He goes on to explain that in his lineage, God is not seen as “up in the sky looking at you and judging you.” Instead, God is “giving out love and giving out love and giving out love…like a very nice music always playing. If you hurt people you make yourself deaf to this music, that's all. Not God’s fault, your fault. Not God’s judgment, your choice, you see? You make yourself no chance to feel God, or the moon going up, or any good love.”

Small, seemingly insignificant choices, minute by minute, day after day. Choices that help us find our way to the love streaming through every minute, to the joy of the music that is always playing.
Now that’s a kind of simplicity I can hang with!

May we all grow our ability to hear the music.

Loanne Marie

PS. And thanks to Linda for lending me Breakfast with Buddha!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Open That Love~Window!

When I was a little girl in that developmental stage between highchair and big person chair, my mother would place our 4~inch thick big~city phone book on a grown~up seat and help me climb aboard. I saw this scene repeated with my younger siblings at dinner tables spanning years. The ritual usually ended with a statement something like, “Now, let’s move that chair in so you’ll be in the same county as your food.”

That line returns to me now as I think back on my brisk walk around the lake this morning. I was moving within a crescent of mountains, beneath a huge, shockingly blue sky, the sun low in front of me. Too bad I wasn’t there.

My body may have been walking within beauty, but my thoughts were some place else. Likely I was thinking back on an interesting conversation, or scheduling my day, or simply drifting from one random thought to the next. But I definitely wasn’t fully on that lakeside path. To paraphrase Mom, I wasn’t in the same county as my nourishment.

A week earlier, I’d attended a performance by musicians Jenny Bird and Michael Mandrell. One of the songs of that evening popped into my head this morning and helped return me to the lake. In Some Kiss We Want, Jenny put to music the Rumi poem of the same name.

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of spirit
on the body.

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language~door
and open the love~window.
The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

Sound advice, I thought. So with Rumi and Jenny as my guides, I once again closed the language~door. I let go my thoughts and opened my heart, my very own love~window.

And I woke to what was...Early morning light dancing on ripples of water churned by a soft breeze which riffled, too, my hair...Glorious blue of a sky found only at high altitudes, streaked with the feathery remains of a plane’s vapor trail mingling with a bevy of cirrus clouds...Solid earth beneath my feet, and delight in a body that brings the capacity to perceive such beauty.

And just then, a Great Blue Heron, hidden behind a rocky outcropping nearby, took flight. Broad wings beat a leisurely but powerful rhythm, lifting a body wrapped in blue~grey feathers, long stick legs trailing behind, orange in the morning light.

Having been alive to the experience, I saw and felt it all.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with language or the thinking of thoughts Rumi was referring to in his poem. But thoughts unchecked can whisk us away. And words, as much as I love them, are not real. They give us only an approximation of reality, merely pointing us in a certain direction. As the Buddha would say, words are the finger pointing to the moon. They are not the moon itself.

And it’s the moon we long for.

Rumi’s words, imprinted in my mind by Jenny’s marvelous voice, pointed me to the moment. I needed only to take the next step. When I opened that love~ window, the moon~~and the lake, the sky, and that magnificent heron~~ breathed into me.

What joy! A joy that urges me to remain in the same county as my nourishment, throughout all the moments of all my days.

Blessings on your very own love~window. May it open wide!

Loanne Marie

To learn more about Jenny Bird's music, go to her site And here's the link to the Mystic Muse CD, which includes the Rumi song above and quotes put to music from other mystics and visionaries. You can listen to St. John for free!