Excerpts

from Mountain Record 31.4, Summer 2013


 

 from Awakening and Blossoming 
- by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 


The third noble truth is the truth of cessation. The truth of cessation (gokpa) is related to the concept of tharpa, or “liberation.” In discussing the possibility of cessation, we should get rid of fictitious stories about how great it is to get there and become somebody at last. Such ideas may be obstacles. In relating to cessation, the question is whether we have to use our imagination or whether we actually can experience a sense of relief or freedom. The truth of the matter is, that in regard to cessation, imagination does not play a very important role. It does not help at all in getting results.

The experience of cessation is very personal and very real, like the practice of meditation. Generally, however, our experiences of freedom or liberation are quite sparse and minute—and when we do have an occasional glimpse of freedom, we try to catch it, so we lose it. But it is possible to extend such glimpses. For example, if somebody is waking for the first time from a deep sleep, she might see the midnight stars. But if she waits long enough without going back to sleep, she will begin to see not only stars but the dawn, then the sunrise, and then the whole landscape being lit by a brilliant light coming from the sky. She will begin to see her hands, her palms, her toes, and she will also begin to see her tables, her chairs, and the world around her. And if she is clever enough to look at a mirror, she will also see herself.

 

 from Healing  - by Jane Goodall

One day, among all the days, I remember most of all. It was May 1981 and I had finally made it to Gombe after a six-week tour in America—six weeks of nonstop lectures, fundraising dinners, conferences, meetings, and lobbying for various chimpanzee issues. Six weeks in and out of hotels, living out of a suitcase, packing and unpacking. I was exhausted and I longed for the peace of the forest. I wanted nothing more than to be with the chimpanzees, renewing my acquaintance with my old friends, getting my climbing legs back, relishing the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest! ...

Back in Gombe. It was early in the morning and I sat on the steps of my house by the lakeshore. It was very still. Suspended over the horizon, where the mountains of the Congo fringed Lake Tanganyika, was the last quarter of the waning moon and her path danced and sparkled toward me across the gently moving water. After enjoying a banana and a cup of coffee, I was off, climbing up the steep slopes behind my house, carrying only my little binoculars, a notebook, a pencil, and a handful of raisins for lunch. I never feel the need for food, and seldom for water, when I am roaming the forests. How good it felt to be alone at last, reveling in the simple life that had nourished my spirit for so long.

 


 

 from Becoming Animal - by David Abram

Suppose it was only by leaving behind, for those weeks, the compulsion to communicate with words that I became so vulnerable to the expressive power of all those other-than-human styles of sensitivity and sentience. It was not merely the polymorphous play of rhythms, the syncopation of shapes that swerve and sprout beyond the confines of the city, but also how startlingly immense the land became when I encountered it without the steady filter of words, the discovery that I was palpably immersed in a field of unfoldings so much wider than myself and my intentions. It was not just the resonant metaphors offered by stones and grasses and muscled creatures, but also the rightness, somehow, of recognizing mind as a broad landscape within which I was wandering, a deep field with its near aspects and its distances, its moods shifting like the weather. For surely mind has its depths: memories buried, for instance, beneath the ground of our current awareness, or recent insights momentarily concealed behind the close matters we’re obsessively stuck on.

There seemed something more than metaphoric here, something strangely right about this resonance between thought and the earthly terrain. For clearly there’s something about the psyche that exceeds us and overflows all our knowings, confounding every notion of mind as a self-contained space within our head. Certainly, I still felt that there was an interior quality to the mind.

 


 

 from Opening the Tidal Gate - by David Whyte

It was just an ordinary lunch, but it had profound consequences in the months that followed. To begin with, it had been difficult to make any room in my busy day to meet with him for the meal. Busyness was an integral part of my identity that year. I was extremely busy, after all, besieged by what seemed like unremitting and unending deadlines. Not only that, but his request for the lunch seemed to arise from a much more leisurely approach to life that had me very much annoyed on the phone. In my busyness I was put off by an irresponsible sense of repose on his part, a sense that he had plenty of the time that I did not have, which in some little place at the back of my mind irked me. Luckily, I was able to rise self-righteously above my self-righteousness and be impressed enough by his persistence to make room for the meeting.

My work had become important to me in a subtly corrupting way. I ran the educational program of an organization dedicated to environmental teaching, and my scheduled busyness was a wonderful measure of my self-importance. I felt that I was affecting hundreds of people directly and thousands of people indirectly. I therefore felt it was worth killing myself a little for it. Here at last I was educating at least some of the masses about the big ecological picture to which my degree in marine sciences had led me.

 


 

 Giacometti - by James Lord

One evening Giacometti went to the movies. While seated in the theater, without forewarning, he experienced one of those miraculous instances of self-creation in which the present abolishes the past even as the future abolishes the present. It caused a radical change in the artist’s view of the world and of his art. He saw this at once and later he spoke of it repeatedly.

“The true revelation,” he said, “the real impetus that made me want to try to represent what I see came to me in a movie theater. I was watching a newsreel. Suddenly I no longer knew just what it was that I saw on the screen. Instead of figures moving in three-dimensional space I saw only black and white specks shifting on a flat surface. They had lost all meaning. I looked at the people beside me, and all at once by contrast I saw a spectacle completely unknown. It was fantastic. The unknown was the reality all around me, and no longer what was happening on the screen! When I came out onto the Boulevard Montparnasse, it was as if I’d never seen it before, a complete transformation of reality, marvelous, totally strange, and the boulevard had the beauty of the Arabian Nights. Everything was different, space and objects and colors and the silence, because the sense of space generates silence, bathes objects in silence.

 


 

 from In Search of a Language - by Eavan Boland

I worked, almost alone, in a study above gardens that looked out to sea. It was my final year at school. In the distance were Bray Head and the Sugarloaf Mountain. Nearby were the palms and steep declines of the Vico Road. Behind me as I studied was a copse of evergreens which sheltered the school from the road. If you turned over your shoulder and looked at the treetops, it was just possible to see the water flash and spoil their darkness.

My solitude was circumstantial. I had returned to Ireland in my teens; I had no knowledge of the Irish language. Therefore, I had to do the General Certificate of the British system. I was an erratic, hit-and-miss student, averse to discipline and hardly able to connect my intense reading of poetry with any other part of my studies.

The study where I worked was a somber room, with a scarred oval table and two armchairs. There were embroideries on the armrests, a bookshelf with just a few paperbacks leaning crookedly against one another. And a bay window. A wireless with a dial and a coarsely woven front grid stood on a lamp table in the comer. Under the window was a eucalyptus tree, a glittering exhibition which distracted me when the sea winds came in with the spring light behind them.

 


 

 from Poetry is Not a Luxury - by Audre Lorde

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are—until the poem—nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us. For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, “beautiful/and tough as chestnut/stanchions against (y)our nightmare of weakness/” and of impotence.

These places of possibility within ourselves are dark because they are ancient and hidden; they have survived and grown strong through that darkness. Within these deep places, each one of us holds an incredible reserve of creativity and power, of unexamined and unrecorded emotion and feeling. The woman’s place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep.

 


 

 from On the Rez - by Ian Frazier

She came running onto the court dribbling the basketball, with her teammates running behind. On the court, the noise was deafeningly loud. SuAnne went right down the middle; but instead of running a full lap, she suddenly stopped when she got to center court. Her teammates were taken by surprise, and some bumped into one another. Coach Zimiga at the rear of the line did not know why they had stopped. SuAnne turned to Doni De Cory and tossed her the ball. Then she stepped into the jump-ball circle at center court, in front of the Lead fans. She unbuttoned her warm-up jacket, took it off, draped it over her shoulders, and began to do the Lakota shawl dance. SuAnne knew all the traditional dances—she had competed in many powwows as a little girl—and the dance she chose is a young woman’s dance, graceful and modest and show-offy all at the same time. “I couldn’t believe it—she was powwowin’, like, ‘get down!’” Doni De Cory recalled. “And then she started to sing.” SuAnne began to sing in Lakota, swaying back and forth in the jump-ball circle, doing the shawl dance, using her warm-up jacket for a shawl. The crowd went completely silent. “All that stuff the Lead fans were yelling—it was like she reversed it somehow,” a teammate said. In the sudden quiet, all you could hear was her Lakota song. SuAnne stood up, dropped her jacket, took the ball from Doni De Cory, and ran a lap around the court dribbling expertly and fast. The fans began to cheer and applaud. She sprinted to the basket, went up in the air, and laid the ball through the hoop, with the fans cheering loudly now. Of course, Pine Ridge went on to win the game.

 


 

 from The Moment of Greatest Alienation - by Reginald A. Ray

The body, in its own wisdom and with its own impeccable timing, gives rise to some manifestation of unresolved karma in the form of a physical sensation, a release of energy, an injury, an illness, a dream, the powerful upsurge of emotion, a charged thought or memory, or, perhaps surprisingly, an event apparently from the “outside” world, such as a chance human encounter or a “natural” event. When some aspect of our unresolved karma surfaces in this way, when it comes into our awareness, it is said that that particular karmic trend is “coming to fruition.” It has come to fruition in the sense that it has now appeared along with an inevitable invitation, sometimes a demand, for us to receive it, experience it fully, and thereby resolve it.

According to Buddhism, such gifts arise from the darkness of the body where all our unresolved karma is held. In Buddhist philosophy, the “holding tank” that the body represents is called the alaya, the universal unconscious. As the unconscious, the body holds all the karmic seeds that we ourselves have sown and that must, on our journey to realization, eventually ripen into the light of consciousness to be fully engaged, felt, and thus worked through and completed.

 


 

 from Into the Heart of Life - by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

In one of the sutras, Ananda, who was the Buddha’s cousin and attendant, says to him, “How is it that all these other buddhas have beautiful pure buddha realms where it is so perfect and lovely, and you have such an awful buddha realm?”

And the Buddha said, “My buddha realm is completely perfect. It is just your impure mind which sees it as awful.”

Our impure perceptions create the reality we perceive. But of course that is not to say that therefore the whole of external phenomena is purely illusion. It is not exactly an illusion. The Tibetans say it is like an illusion. It is like an illusion because we project and are not conscious that this is our projection. Since our perceptions are ego-distorted and impure, we do not see things as they really are. We only perceive our own version, which is based on delusion.

We are looking at the mind. We are looking at the flow of thoughts. Now, while we are observing the thoughts, and the awareness is very strong, the thoughts begin to slow down. It is like a film: if the film begins to go slower and slower, then one recognizes the individual frames rather than the projected movie. Likewise, if our awareness is clear and steady, the thoughts begin to slow down and can be recognized as thoughts linked together.