Sunday, November 29, 2009

perhaps all dragons are princesses

" We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if we could only arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us. " -- Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, November 7, 2009

i miss my dad

I spent four hours at the Relay for Life today. It was a strange melange of a scene -- hundreds of people in an airplance hangar at Pratt & Whitney, walking in circles. There was such joy there in the survivors -- one woman in particular danced while holding a sign over her head to get people to buy raffle tickets. Of course, there was sadness. There were "mom's mighty marchers," who all wore red T-shirts with mom's photo on it. There was squeezable plastic prostates with various stages of cancer and a colon with polyps and a disased lung and a healthy one (not real ones -- rubber ones you could squeeze). no breasts, though. the breast cancer people do their own walks. Goodwin College had a sign that implied you should eat five apples a day, rather than five fruits and vegetables of whatever kind. Because it was at UTC, many of the groups were from there. Pratt & Whitney military engines group was selling "hope" bracelets. sikorsky blad had a hollow helicopter blade to be filled with donations. it was a day to practice patience with slow walkers and observe the great amounts of compassion and generosity in the room. I got all emotional looking at the luminaria table and thinking about decorating one for my dad. what would I write? I still miss you dad, even after 18 years. I'm sad that you didn't get to know BT and Mims. You would have liked them, as people, not just as grandkids. eh ... life and it's impermanence.

Monday, November 2, 2009


The Gift of Fearlessness

(From a talk given by Sensei Eve Myonen Marko on the Dana Paramita on September 12, 2009.)

Recently I read a brief talk by Sharon Salzberg, in which she said, “There is always trauma in the room.” You don’t have to be a war veteran or a survivor of abuse, trauma is in the room. And with trauma comes fear.

The dana paramita, the paramita of giving, is about the giving of fearlessness. One way to do that is by showing fearlessness. When we sit we let go of thoughts, eschewing fear and distraction, and give ourselves the gift of our own life. We let go of protective mechanisms and the world comes in. We let go of separation, and the riches of the universe pour in. Off the cushion we practice and live in the same way, as though nothing is missing. Anytime we think we’re poor or we withdraw in fear, it reflects a fixation on some aspect of poverty or suffering. Life lived out of that attachment is narrow and fearful. Living from the moment, living out of letting go, is a gift of fearlessness to others.

There is another way of giving fearlessness that is quite different. It’s sharing the fear and vulnerability, showing the trauma as it’s being healed. This is a way of giving not from our strength, not from what we have a lot of, but rather from what we perceive as weakness, from our own vulnerability, from the side we prefer to keep private.

Ordinarily we like to show the world our best side, the side that is successful, that manages, that’s healthy and under control. But there’s always trauma in the room. We have another treasure trove from which to give, and that is the sharing of our failures, of our struggles to remain connected in a real way to ourselves and others, of trust in the big picture. It’s like presenting a koan, and the koan I’m presenting is my own life, including what I label as its underbelly. Instead of keeping weaknesses and doubts secret I share them, I present the day-in, day-out work that I do in engaging with them.

One sees that in council, when we’re asked to be spontaneous and speak from the heart. Those who do that often speak hesitantly, as if hearing the words for the first time, working out what they have to say as they say it. That, too, is a model of fearlessness. Natalie Goldberg says that when you write, don’t be afraid to be the worst writer in the world. Don’t be afraid to present incorrect grammar or spelling mistakes, don’t be afraid to be repetitive or tentative or garbled. Just write. That’s fearlessness.

It means not hiding, not posturing, not pretending. The Dalai Lama has said that if you understand the doctrine of dependent origination, you understand the dharma. If there’s this, then there’s that. If this happened, then that happened. Everything is interdependent and co-arising. How do you teach it? By being it. By facing our lives cleanly and transparently. By not hiding or holding secrets.

Giving possessions is often easier for me than giving the dharma, which means sharing all of me. It’s easier to give homeless people money than introducing yourself by name; it’s easier to write a check to a distant charity than go into our own schools and slums. It’s easier to give a workshop on something I’ve mastered than to share something I struggle with. It’s easier to know than to bear witness.