I used to tell myself that my surroundings, my environment didn't matter so much - I was an idea girl and an outdoors girl - domestic chores weren't me. So it is to my bafflement that I find myself this week throwing out old technology magazines, business cards from businesses that went kaput two years ago, all these yellowing clippings that tell me I was somebody somewhere sometime. I am organizing and cleaning up my studio apartment whilst outside the days are an enigmatic Indian summer - sunny, crisp, and yes, even in California, the leaves swirl to the ground in crunchy heaps.
These days, I am living much more attuned to the cycles of the moon, the cycles of the seasons, the cycles of each flitting moment. And I had to wonder: I thought spring cleaning was...,well, you know, a spring thing. (Although I'm not much for cleaning in spring either.)
I tend toward temper tantrums when I feel that God is fucking with me. (He, he as if He is.) Intense fury moved like a cyclone through my body this week. "The car absolutely cannot be on the blink... I have so much to do, so many people, and places, and things to accomplish." Every single face-to-face appointment and meeting this week got sloughed off into later, or neverland.
"We must be willling to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us." - Joseph Campbell
And it hit me, I don't know how I knew. This slowdown was forced: it was a signal to clear out, to strip away the past rather than hoard it. No avoiding...housework, or otherwise.
In the recent post on wine metaphors, good-enough ain't, and terroir, Ric writes: "I have a brother-in-law who is quintessential "salt of the earth" - a southern Italian who would scoff at such an ephemeral concept, but whose touch with wine, olive oil and simple fresh food betrays thousands of years of inherited DNA, and always makes a visit to his place a joy. He takes his personal 'terroir' wherever he goes..."
Precisely, terroir is lived not studied; natural not forced. When you allow care and devotion and attention and passion and stillness into your life, it doesn't end. Everything matters, now. Everything from the way the vintner crushes the grape at harvest to the way the sweet almond oil soap perfumes my whole room.
There's a tea shop in Seattle that I should adore as I'm a tea afectionado. The tea is cared about, no doubt, but it's as if the passion was cut off right at the tea leaves in the tins, please. The rest of the shop conveys a sense of lulled neglect, disinterest, dispassion.
Fasting can be interpreted as a deprivation. Yet it is a purification, a harmonization that allows our spirit to catch up and embrace the matter of our flesh and soul. It is a flushing away of the past, the stagnant, the stale. "Focus, grasshopper," a friend reminds me yesterday. It is a stripping away of all but that which is essential. And it is intimately tied to feasting.
My calligraphy teacher jokes that when she dies, her friends are going to be swarming around her bed to pull out the most exquisite handmade papers she'd collected and saved carefully folded undereath. Saved for one day when...
Autumn is a time to celebrate what's ripe. Feast on your best handmade paper from that quaint shop in Florence. This is the time to enjoy it, or share it, or give it away. Eat and be merry now, or the ripe fruit rots in the gutters, impeding life's flow.
"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water; and breeds reptiles of the mind." - William Blake
I'm reading Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti right now. I was blessed to read today about the radiance of winter, and I see that I'm gearing up for winter. (My favorite line in this passage: "If trees were like humans, you would see them reaching down with their branches and raking up all the leaves to hold onto them for security."):
"Winter is an interesting time of year. Many of our most sacred days are in the winter. It is the season of spiritual holidays such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Christmas, and often Buddha's enlightenment day is celebrated at this time of year. Winter is a sacred portal, an opportunity. The leaves on the trees are falling; the fruits drop to the ground; the branches become bare; and everything returns to its most essential root nature. Not only in the exterior world, but also in the interior world there is a natural stripping away.
Winter is also the time of great rains and snow. Every year, the Sierra Mountains become a little less than they were the year before. Part of them is washed down into the streams as the water comes down and returns to its source, flowing into the lakes and the oceans.
Even with its storms, winter is the quietest time of year. There is nothing like the quiet after the storm. If you have the privilege of being in the mountains right after a snowfall when there's no wind, nothing is moving, the snow is sucking up every sound, and you hear a deep silence everywhere, you know how potent this silence is."
"In a real sense, self-inquiry is a spiritually induced form of wintertime. It's not about looking for a right answer so much as a stripping away and letting you see what is not necessary, what you can do without, what you are without your leaves. In human beings, we do not call these leaves. We call them ideas, attachments, and conditioning. All of this forms your identity. Wouldn't it be terrible if the trees outside identified themselves by their leaves? These are very flimsy things to be attached to.
Inquiry is a way of inducing a spiritual winter in its most positive sense, stripping everything to its root, to its core. When we have allowed ourselves to be stripped and really enter into the interior winer, into all the leaves or thoughts falling out of the mind, then we may find ourselves falling backward into, as we say in Zen, who we were before our parents were born. This is a falling into the most essential root of being.
I think there is nothing we, as human beings, resist more than a spiritual winter. If humans did not resist the stripping away of their own identities and allowed themselves to experience wintertime, we would all be enlightened. If we just let wintertime dawn in us, there is a natural stripping away, more like a falling away. When you are very still and quiet, falling away happens naturally. If you are not trying to control anything, you feel certain thought patterns and energetic qualities falling away like leaves or snow falling; it's a delicate falling. This is what spiritual inquiry is for. Asking "Who am I?" is being present in the space of not-knowing and questioning all your beliefs and assumptions. The realization of eternal truth comes at the expense of all your illusions.
Of course humans have abilities that trees don't. If trees were like humans, you would see them reaching down with their branches and raking up all the leaves to hold onto them for security. Wouldn't you feel bad if you saw the trees doing this, holding all their leaves to themselves as if they were in an existential crisis? This is our tendency, to pick up the pieces of our pet beliefs and theories, and hold on for dear life.
Sometimes this falling away feels like a powerful storm stripping leaves from a tree. You may have a sacred identity and some wind blows through - usually another human being - and that identity is ripped away. You can be thinking, "I am so enlightened, I can't stand it, it's amazing." Then some wind is going to come along and rip the thought away. Some friend or fellow worker is going to come along and say, "That doesn't look too enlightened to me," and you see it was just another unnecessary identity. If you don't reach down to gather it up, this is a sacred opportunity. Then as it falls you will see that you don't need that identity. It's an illusion, just more dead weight to toss overboard.
Returning to the core, the root of your own self, and setting through everything that you take yourself to be allows even the most sacred identities to drop away. There is such beauty in discovering what we can do without. The most beautiful gift of this wintertime is ultimately something that is unspeakable; it is only livable. The winter is actually begging you to just let go, and then let go of letting go. Let this natural and spontaneous returning to the root of your own existence happen. Return to that which is not definable.
There is a wonderful poem about a lone tree with no branches standing at the edge of a cliff in winter, which was written by someone describing his own awakening. A crack opens and runs through the bark of the tree, and then the bark peels off. Imagine cracking a tree or a log open to see what is in the core. To see what is inside, you have to crack through to the core. What would you find? You find radiant emptiness, the full radiant emptiness of winter. Imagine something radiant coming out of nowhere, something just radiating out, coming out of nowhere, absolutely nowhere.
When you reach the core that comes after allowing everything to drop, you are naturally cracked open. There is a spiritual heart in that core. You uncover not only the emptiness of the radiant mind, but the radiance and warmth of the spiritual heart as well. When you're really resting, you can actually feel the radiant, empty mind - not as a thought, but as the radiant emptiness of yourself, the nothingness of yourself and of all selves. You also experience the radiant heart fullness and realize that the emptiness isn't just a bland emptiness - it is heart-full. When the emptiness awakens, you know that it is also the compassionate heart. The warmth of your own spiritual heart comes alive." - "Emptiness Dancing" by Adyashanti