“Call Me By My True Names”

Thich Nhat Hanh 12 (cropped).jpg

 

As Thich Nhat Hanh lies in critical condition in a hospital after a brain hemorrhage, I sit here and try to take in these challenging words.  If we can get to the point of recognizing how evil intention lives in ourselves, perhaps we can get to the point of forgiveness and reconciliation with the perpetrators of evil deeds.

 

Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

From: Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call Me by My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to
Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and
loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
hands,
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
people,
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Dharma Writing Workshop

The Dharma Writing Workshop http://www.quietspaces.com/dharmawriting.html

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

Know Your Crow: Connections

crow with woman  photo credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotospequenasuricata1413285694Pequena Suricataa via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca

On a hot August day
I sat on the spacious balcony of my home
Reading about enfolding and unfolding
Teetering between rupture and rapture,
When Lenore came to visit.
She landed in the gutter
And cocked her head in response
To my accolades of her beauty and intelligence.

After a bit she let loose with a booming
Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw
And flew onto the railing to study me better.
Then- exit stage up.

Lenore’s raucous call had announced
A radical paradigm shift in our lives.
Nevermore are we separate, but connected
Evermore.

© rita h kowats

photo credit:  a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotospequenasuricata1413285694Pequena Suricataa via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca

bare trees in forest 2 photo credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotoszharth8372204605zhartha via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca

Shivering Souls

bare trees in forest 2 photo credit a href=httpswww.flickr.comphotoszharth8372204605zhartha via a href=httpphotopin.comphotopina a href=httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-nc-nd2.0cca

 

In November we enter a  liminal space spiritually, where souls shiver and flame…

 

 

The Bare Bones of Kenosis

 

 

 

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/zharth/8372204605/“>zharth</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com“>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/“>cc</a> edited

Knowing What Time It Is

intrinsic rhythm of control and surrender

 

 

Hang on.
Let go.
Let be.
What time is it?

The Spirit of the Dynamic Dance
Draws us into her syncopated rhythm.
Provocative and exciting is this tango of time,
Punctuated by head-snaps and intricate footwork.

Control
(Head-snap)
Surrender
(Head-snap)
Let be.

The dance is the time.
In dancing the dance
We know we are alive.

© rita h kowats 10-31-14

 

Enjoy visiting or revisiting this tango scene from the film Shall We Dance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNjVaaZXcBY

 

 

The Veil Between the Worlds Is an Illusion

Holy Names Academy-sans veil - Copy

A Story for All Hallows Eve

On a bright Autumn Sunday afternoon I went to the high school where I taught to print and photocopy a lesson I planned to teach the next day.  Such is life, or lack of life, for a teacher!  The school was a four story turn of the century building, with innumerable nooks and crannies…great for young girls wanting to escape class.  The halls echoed my entrance on the first floor, alerting me to the fact that I was alone.  I didn’t care.  I was on a mission!  Ensconced at the desk in the teachers’ workroom on the third floor, I set myself to printing my handout.  NOTE:  This is 1984, the era of dinosaur computers and I am not, by nature, a practical person.  The printer would not print.  For twenty minutes my attention was riveted to that printer, nothing else.

Finally, success!  I whipped out the paper to take it to the photocopy machine, turned toward the open doorway, and froze.  Just inside the open door of the office across the hall, sat a young woman.  She was a 1960’s Joan Baez kind of girl, complete with straight, long, black hair, mini skirt, and even go-go boots.  I couldn’t move.  I had stopped breathing.  As if on cue, I heard a calm voice within me ask, “Why do you presume you have to be afraid?” and I blurted like a bullet, “Who are you, what do you want?”  At the sound of my voice, her diaphanous image disintegrated, like individual pixels on a screen separating from the picture, and I no longer saw her.  But I felt her presence.  It was benign, nothing sinister about it, but she was still there.  I decided then and there that my students could very well do without the assignment I had set out to print, and I fled the building.

“Why do you presume you have to be afraid?  Because Hollywood told me so.  Another ten years brought similar experiences, the fear dissipating with each one.  I started to read.  I worked with shamans.  I wrapped my unscientific brain around the most basic concepts of physics and saw how they related to spirituality.  I had always believed that we live on somehow after death.  Now I understood that the voice within me had come from this “Joan Baez” girl.  The shaman suggested that perhaps she only left because I had interrupted her quiet time.  During the week she put up with 250 teenagers.

My spiritual practice around the afterlife has evolved to include an intentional awareness of the presence of spirits in my daily life.  I invite them each day to guide, protect and companion with me.  When I write, preach, guide or discern a path, I chant a mantra, “Come good spirits, come.  Show me the way.”  I invite only those whom I can welcome, and protect myself from those who are not welcome.  The veil between the two worlds is getting thinner for me with every passing year and every encounter.

I am convinced that these are normal, everyday experiences, open to everyone.  Today is All Hallows Eve, a time when the veil is said to be at its thinnest.  Honor your dead with flowers, candles, and maybe a little chat.  Do you have a “ghost” story to share below?

 

Believer or not, this podcast from Snap Judgment, “Innocence Lost,”  is guaranteed to entertain, enlighten, or frighten someone: http://snapjudgment.org/SpookedV
 

An All Hallows Eve Story: The Thin Veil

Golden Kiss2

An All Hallows Eve Story:  The Thin Veil

On a bright Autumn Sunday afternoon I went to the high school where I taught to print and photocopy a lesson I planned to teach the next day.  Such is life, or lack of life, for a teacher!  The school was a four story turn of the century building, with innumerable nooks and crannies…great for young girls wanting to escape class.  The halls echoed my entrance on the first floor, alerting me to the fact that I was alone.  I didn’t care.  I was on a mission!  Ensconced at the desk in the teachers’ workroom on the third floor, I set myself to printing my handout.  NOTE:  This is 1984, the era of dinosaur computers and I am not, by nature, a practical person.  The printer would not print.  For twenty minutes my attention was riveted to that printer, nothing else.

Finally, success!  I whipped out the paper to take it to the photocopy machine, turned toward the open doorway, and froze.  Just inside the open door of the office across the hall, sat a young woman.  She was a 1960’s Joan Baez kind of girl, complete with straight, long, black hair, mini skirt, and even go-go boots.  I couldn’t move.  I had stopped breathing.  To use the vernacular, if I may, SHE SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME!  As if on queue, I heard a calm voice within me ask, “Why do you presume you have to be afraid?” and I blurted like a bullet, “Who are you, what do you want?”  At the sound of my voice, her diaphanous image disintegrated, like individual pixels on a screen separating from the picture, and I no longer saw her.  But I felt her presence.  It was benign, nothing sinister about it, but she was still there.  I decided then and there that my students could very well do without the assignment I had set out to print, and I fled the building.

“Why do you presume you have to be afraid?  Because Hollywood told me so.  Another ten years brought similar experiences, the fear dissipating with each one.  I started to read.  I worked with shamans.  I wrapped my unscientific brain around the most basic concepts of physics and saw how they related to spirituality.  I had always believed that we live on somehow after death.  Now I understood that the voice within me had come from this “Joan Baez” girl.  The shaman suggested that perhaps she only left because I had interrupted her quiet time.  During the week she put up with 250 teenagers.

My spiritual practice around the afterlife has evolved to include an intentional awareness of the presence of spirits in my daily life.  I invite them each day to guide, protect and companion with me.  When I write, preach, guide or discern a path, I chant a mantra, “Come good spirits, come.  Show me the way.”  I invite only those whom I can welcome, and protect myself from those who are not welcome.  The veil between the two worlds is getting thinner for me with every passing year and every encounter.

I am convinced that these are normal, everyday experiences, open to everyone.  Today is All Hallows Eve, a time when the veil is said to be at its thinnest.  Honor your dead with flowers, candles, and maybe a little chat.  Do you have a “ghost” story to share below?

Reep and Sow

What a paradox it is that in autumn we harvest, yet, if we want spring flowers and crops, we must also plant.  The spiritual life is a paradox of continuous planting-harvesting-planting-harvesting.  Spiritual practices, like compassion and conscious living bear fruit in acts of justice where we learn what more there is to plant.

God-Seed green

  rita h. kowats 10-24-14

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

 

When it fogs in October
People say, “It’s thick as pea soup out there!”
When it fogs in our souls
We pull up a stool to the hearth
And watch grievances bubble to a boil,
Thickening into an opaque blend
Of anger and resentment or fear and pain,
Depending on the available spices
We add to the mix.

Just as fog bides its time,
Confined by purblind eyes
We must stop stirring the pot,
And wait in the soulfog
For Spirit to restore peace.

 

© rita h kowats

 

Stained Glass Windows

Nature's Stained Glass Window

 

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did.
I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show.
Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

 

Stained glass church windows:

Illuminated wall decorations
Held in place by rigid frames,
Enshrined in static magnificence,
Controlling light for their own sakes.

But nature,
In infinite
Enfolding and unfolding,
Is the light.
Dynamic and undivided
She freely flashes colors
From her essence,
Layer upon layer
On unsuspecting pilgrims
Who stop by to
Be.

© rita h kowats 2014

My muses for this piece are the incredible photo by Juneau nature photograper Lynn Schooler (https://www.facebook.com/lynn.schooler?fref=photo) and the work of innovative physicist David Bohm.

Chris Highland (chighland.com) just drew my attention to this piece, John Burroughs at the Canterbury Cathedral . You may enjoy it.

http://books.google.com/books?id=HSAZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=John+Burroughs+at+the+Canterbury+Cathedral&source=bl&ots=PDd15r4n58&sig=nsWg-sRTEGg893kWpIpMT7usbBc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=noUwVNwMgt6gBOXXgogD&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=John%20Burroughs%20at%20the%20Canterbury%20Cathedral&f=false