The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Monday, 7 February 2011
When I was a student I had a poster on my wall: a guru, in full robes, serenely surfing the wall of a huge wave. The caption at the bottom read: 'You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf.' This is pure Buddhist thought, allied to the teaching of the two arrows: the first arrow is what happens to me ('shit happens', as they say). The second is how I relate, or react, to this experience; in other words, the pain of the second arrow is entirely avoidable – as long as I don't identify my true self with my emotional nature and its reactivity.
This phrase has accompanied me all my adult life. Of course I still react, and over-react. But my Zen sitting practice at least allows me to be aware of that fact; even after all these years (maybe 35) of admittedly sometimes sporadic practice I react and react, but now and then I simply sit at the heart of it all; or catch that wave and glide in to shore.
I am reminded of all of this by a series of happy synchronicities that brought me to a TV (a very rare event for me) at the right time to catch a programme on BBC2 in the UK called 'The Secret Life of Waves' (thank you, Simon; and for your beautiful words in relation to it). In that programme they used that phrase, and for the first time I became aware that it's a quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn, whom I have long considered to be one of my Zen teachers. Kabat-Zinn has brought mindfulness practice into medicine and other groups throughout the world, and the profound simplicity of his teachings are very resonant for me.
As the programme showed, and as quantum physics reminds us we, like everything else, are perpetually surfing waves of energy, which pass through us and on. Robert MacFarlane said 'we are more gap than join' – and I find this idea that we are more fluid than we are solid – we are processes, 'becomings' rather than 'beings' – very liberating. Who is this 'I' that 'I' think that 'I' am?
And I'd like to go one step further than that phrase suggests: actually, we CAN stop the waves. In effect, we do that by giving up our notions of separateness, by becoming the wave.
Right, out to surf the weather in this wild westerly rain and wind in the Devon lanes...
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