A short saying, a poem, that someone said perhaps even centuries ago yet it resonates inside of you. If what you read moves you, it is probably because it talks about the human condition; about what you and I too have experienced with the passage of years. We are all explorers working together (ideally) trying to understand the feelings we have and to find the deeper meanings of life itself. It is the promise of new discoveries and new riches.
I said: What about my eyes?
He said: Keep them on the road.
I said: What about my passion?
He said: Keep it burning.
I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the light enters you.
I have a cookbook that I like, maybe you know it, The Tassjara Cookbook. And they have a Tassajara Bread Book which I use even more for baking bread (when I do that which isn’t often anymore) and for making pancakes. At least the bread cookbook dates back to the early ‘70’s so it’s a throwback to those good times. If you check around, you’ll see that there is a Tassajara Zen Center in California and the cookbooks arose from the author having cooked there for many years. Now back to the story. In the cookbook, the author talks about a Zen monk who says when cutting carrots – cut carrots. The message is, concentrate on what you’re doing.
The answer seems obvious yet how often are we involved in some activity absent-mindedly while thinking about something else. I know it’s happened to me many times. Once or twice I’ve cut myself badly while cutting onions or some other vegetable. Then there was the time I ran into the back of a cement truck with my car last year waiting to enter onto the freeway. Where was my head at the time? I chocked it up to jet-lag but that is hardly an excuse if you are driving a car. At least, though the whole experience was embarrassing, it didn’t amount to anything more serious. It’s sometimes hard to stay focused on the “road” as Rumi talks about.
Okay, we’ve talked about concentration, now let’s talk about passion. That’s the second thing on Rumi’s list. To talk about what you are passionate about might be harder than you think. Are you passionate about making love? That should be easy but then again I wonder if sometimes it’s not just an exercise that we have to fulfill with the one we love or hope to love. Besides, does my passion excite and stimulate your passion? If it comes from a true place inside of me, you’d think that it would. It’s the mutuality thing that Fromm was talking about: love engendering love.
We often associate the idea of passion with relationships on an intimate level, but what about being passionate about other things. Again, am I passionate about the work I do? Do I wake up every day energized to start the day and give it my best? What about taking care of myself on both the physical and metaphysical levels? Do I want to learn? Do I see my life as a continuum of opportunities to learn about who I am and what is inside of me? The path towards union as the practice of yoga talks about, is learning so that you can get beyond a state of constantly stumbling around making the same mistakes over and over again. It makes sense since with a bit of self-love, I can hope that one day I can get it all right.
Rumi says about passion, “Keep it burning.” How do I do that? How do I keep “stoking the fires” as they used to say when keeping a steam engine train running? It’s the big question isn’t it? Usually, something happens in your life, you sort of “wake-up” and start looking for something that will make your life different. For more than 40 years now, it’s been about looking towards the East and techniques that have been around for thousands of years. Somehow, we found yoga and meditation. There were the different practices of the martial arts and religions that captivated other cultures and epochs in the history of humankind. It was all about learning how to move in silent meditation. Awakenings that brought new meaning to life and gave rise to conscious human beings who made decisions that were for the betterment of the species and the planet. Of course, that same investigation has been going on for centuries in the West amongst the great thinkers, poets and scientists. To jump into that stream was to participate in a great tradition of a few. So keep looking for the journey is rocky, at times dangerous in that you find things uncommon about everything, but it is never boring and never uninteresting.
Ah, the heart. Just a hard-working organ but oh how symbolic. They say that part of our brain is the neo-cortex and represents the depository of short-term memory but, how come the heart is so often associated with what happened to us? All that emotional pain, often regret at wanting to change how things worked out, and anger at being so misunderstood. The heart with all that blood running through it giving life to every functioning organ and gland in the body including the brain, and definitely at the origin of everything we have felt and will feel in the future. So yes, there are those feelings and the sadness of life passing through us, leaving remnants and images and sensations of loss. Of course, there are those memories of joy and happiness, laughter and incredible experiences. The good and bad seem to mix together. Yet it is the sense of loss, of missed opportunities, and wishing it could have been all different that cause us to look deeper at life. It is as if someone was saying, “If you will look, you will find.” You come to understand that it is enough to “look”.
The wounds of life though not pleasant, might just be, in the end, what makes us more human. Some say that you have to know the darkness in order to know the light. Is it not the same as having to empty yourself in order to receive something new? The darkness is the depth of the ocean as the poet talks about.
The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark.
The small truth has words which are clear,
The great truth has great silence.
Be not afraid of your explorations nor the depth of the ocean within you. There is life there in that ocean though you don’t see it from the surface. When the water is clear, the light reaches farther down. Work on making the water clear inside of you and the light will come. The mere fact that there is such depth of character, of personality, of spirit inside you is beyond anyone’s imagination. Perhaps, that is the reason it gives rise to think the unimaginable and do the impossible. Life arises out of those musings; the heart now thinking that it is different.