Notes on a Buddhist path

Smoulder me

January 9, 2012 By | 3 Comments

I want burning. ~ Rumi

A few nights ago I met a friend for tea and a good long chat. When she dropped me off at home later that evening she smiled and remarked how fortunate we were to live such exciting lives.

I had to take that in for a minute or so. I’ve never really thought of myself or my life as exciting. I’d say most of it has been rather pedestrian with a few vagrant mole hills on the otherwise flat road of my existence. If I were to hand pick an exciting life I would probably morph into someone like Anais Nin, or Joan of Arc, or Kate Hepburn, women who went against the norm of society and in the process blazed another way of being for the rest of us less than enthralling types. What makes me feel the tiniest bit like any of these women is a full sense of being alive for perhaps the first time in my life.

Four years ago I rarely went out at night. Now there are few evenings when I don’t have plans to see friends, to join my sanghas in meditation, to slip into the crest of a dance or the arms of a lover. I’ve stretched the tethers of old fears and found they no longer chafe and sometimes have fallen away altogether. In it all is a sense of moving in the current of where life and its tributaries carry me.

Entwined with the excitement of life careening at a full-clip there can also be the hypnotic groove of non-inertia. Stopping means self reflection, feeling, sitting with what feels wondrous and what feels horrendous. There’s a sign hanging on the wall of my acupuncturist’s office that reads “Don’t just do something. Sit there.” Doing nothing but following a breath in and out of your body can open up a playground universe of pretty cool excitement.

In the Buddhist tradition there are seven factors of enlightenment, steps that can lead you ultimately to nibbana, or nirvana. The third factor is energy or effort; the fourth is happiness or zest. Excitement bridges those two steps. Bringing one’s attention to a mundane puff of air and transforming that awareness into a euphoric event is nothing less than miraculous.

I believe that millisecond of the shift from interest to rapture is where the spark of life lies.  Perhaps the brilliant light of nimitta experienced in jhana, the deeper states of Buddhist meditation, is the burning Rumi and a host of other poets have sung their praises to throughout the millennia. At this instant in my life I want to feel the burning, the full flame of living with its pains and its passions, its uncontrollable laughter and inconsolable tears, its tremulous fears and the space of unspeakable peace beyond all senses and emotions.

Now that’s what I call exciting.

What’s burning inside of you? Something unsaid, undone, a dream, a plan, a piece of you yet to be explored? Send me a comment; I’d love to read about your flame.

Not the Intense Moment

by T.S. Eliot

Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

“Not the Intense Moment” from “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot.

Rumi excerpt from Moses and the Shepherd from “The Essential Rumi” by Coleman Barks, Harper Collins, published 1995.

Image credit: Fire by Yndra

Comments

  1. Reading your post about what comes up over a cup of tea with a friend made me think, of the pain and the “inconsolable tears” in life. Friends often see us through the bad times and the good. Perhaps it is in the midst of the passion and the laughter that we find time to look back at just how far we have sailed on the sea of our own life…and wonder at it all.

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