More Poems from Rengetsu: Touching in and Letting Go

To forget the chill of

The frozen hearth

I spend the night

Dreaming of gathering

Violets in a lush field.

 

The Japanese nun Rengetsu gathers violets in every poem she writes.  In the poem Winter Dreams she captures moments by plucking the petals of her memories one magic moment at a time.

 

To recall the verdant colors of spring in the depth of winter is an expression of faith in the seed of Buddha-nature and the lush field of our heart and mind.

 

When the Dalai Lama describes emptiness as fullness he helps us grasp the fertility of space.  The violets arise against an empty palette, fill the canvas as we gather them in a beautiful bouquet and disperse in the next sweet, sad lapse of time.

 

The evanescence of

This floating world

I feel over and over:

It is the hardest

To be the one left behind.

 

In Thirty Years After my Husband’s Death we enter into a loving sanctum as she reflects on her loss and feast in the vastness of her broken open heart. Her words dance on the razors edge of bliss and emptiness, one image a flash of ecstasy, the next of letting go.

 

 

Clad in back robes

I should have no attractions to

The shapes and scents of this world

But how can I keep my vows

Gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?

 

Set against the autumnal blaze of the maple leaves Rengetsu’s non-attachment to the effervescent floating word is reflected in her black robe. We see through her contemplative eyes the brilliant juxtaposition of the longing of the human heart and clear awareness.

 

Who else but a poet could evoke the bounty of the void so well?  As a sky dancer her word play evokes a tango.  The seduction is so acute and the beauty so sublime. In this last poem, As a Nun Gazing at the Deep Colors of Autumn she touches in and lets go.  Touches in and lets go.    

 

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

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Japanese Nun Rengetsu: A Poetic Movement of Mind


Western Kyoto temple grounds

Taking up the brush

Just for the joy of it,

Writing on and on,

Leaving behind

Long lines of dancing letters.

To escape into the world of writing is no escape.  I’m sitting in a plane about to launch for Japan reading Rengetsu’s word play.  She is one of the reasons why I endure long flights to see through the imagined eyes of another time and place.

Her five-line waka poem, The Pleasure of Calligraphy celebrates a rhythmic moment of flow, a movement of mind expressed in beauty.  She writes blissfully as ink captures the grace of nature at work in her discipline.

I write as if awkwardly learning a new language, two phrases forward and the next, scratched out.  I’m slowly learning to trust the flow of my mind: noting what thoughts pop forward, which get edited out.

The calligraphy of Rengetsu is masterful.  Her brushstrokes confident and rounded as if they were grass bending sensuously in the breeze.  Her hand is steady into her eighties.

I write in fits and starts. Pleased in the end that I’ve gotten anything coherent on paper.  Her genius is her total alignment with nature pure and direct.

She shatters my stereotype of the nun divorced from delight.  Her joy breaks all bounds as she fearlessly leaps off the page and into my heart.

The roar of the waterfall,

The howl of a

Mountain storm—

Will they shout out to me

Until morning?

In Mountain Retreat her words plunge over the abyss of my insomnia.  She implores us to pay attention to the deafening roar of our inherently wild nature.

I must listen to the terror lurking in my sleepless heart.  Rengetsu powerfully frames awakening with awe struck wonder. Here she portrays life in relentless yet captivating terms.

Her question points to our all too human fear.  Do I have the capacity?  Can I reside in the storm moment-to-moment?  Or will I contract into a dreaded future?

The choice to shout-out the beauty and the terror is ours.  In her poetic howl we can guess Rengetsu embraces the night with valor. I cannot resist her invitation to celebrate it all.

(Photos by Deborah Bowman, Kyoto, Japan, 2010)

For more photos and inspirational words go to www.thefemalebuddha.com

Action + Acceptance — Art Therapy Serves Sex Trafficked Girls

Acceptance does not mean passivity. We may try to accept things as they are, but that doesn’t mean if, for example, a situation is unjust that we don’t try to change it.
Diana Winston

There is so much pain and suffering in this world that is hard to accept.  I have a friend that is working on a project to bring art therapy to young girls who have been used in the sex traffic industry so I’ll start there.

Slavery and rape are more accurate words for the unspeakable crimes committed against children throughout the world.  “Traffic” and “industry” says how far off course humanity has veered.

The reports on girls abducted or sold on the black market is horrifying.  The latest stories and the mounting statistics tug heavily at my heart.  I admire those who challenge the transgressions in the streets and in the halls of government.

How can we accept these despicable acts?  Not easily, but if we don’t fully accept the injury we can never address the suffering. When we accept the truth we face it, look it in the eye and let it in our hearts.

No wonder it’s so hard to accept. Our heartstrings are inevitably intertwined with the distress of others the moment we make contact.  Acceptance means connection and responsibility. Response-ability is the measure of an open heart.

With endless access to the suffering of a world torn open by the media’s onslaught we are faced with a mighty big task.  Every one of us must honestly ask ourselves whom we are able to serve: a young girl, a neighbor, our grandfather?

Every year I am struck by the ignorance of a childhood fiction that the world was on a trajectory of improvement.  The 50’s myth was shored up by a mistaken belief that every disease would be cured, technology would solve any problem and increased understanding was uniting humans across racial differences.

Yet every year my eyes are opened to greater suffering and doubts about a future on our planet. Child slavery points a laser beam on that uncertainty.

So how do we choose to serve?  How we know our capacity? How do we keep our hearts open?

My friend Sue is finding her edge developing a service-learning project for her art therapy students at Naropa University.  The Naropa Community Art Studio International is planning to take their healing work to Cambodia to support and empower survivors of sex trafficking.

She’s Partnered with Transitions Global, an organization that provides a safe environments where girls can heal through intensive trauma therapy and sustainable life and job skills training.

Raising funds through crowdrise and throwing marathon-painting parties the students are on their way to working with the Cambodian girls next summer.

Do I need to believe in a myth?  Absolutely not.  Can I accept a world of hurt?  It’s a little easier with friends like Sue.



Blossom — 7 Quotes and Articles

A deep week of #14Buddha posts has wrapped up and your comments and sharings in the blog comments, across Twitter and FB have been inspiring and greatly appreciated.

#14Buddha posts will take place every other day this week.

Please do continue to share your reflections and writings that are inspired by the women writers featured here at The Female Buddha.

Did you miss a post?  Highlights and links below….

“All of the sudden I woke from my hazy reverie. This was the photographic moment!
The statue was lovely yet these few minutes brought it to life. I had almost missed it.”

— September 19th

“Here is one of my worst habits and a true confession.  I don’t exercise my photography muscle and find myself at square one every year when I go overseas to shoot in Asia, the land of amazing photo opportunities.”

September 20th

“For years after the accident I dreamt of climbing down anything and everything vertical.  My spiritual work was to come down to earth and to be in my body.”

September 21st

“She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. ”

September 22nd

“Laying down and closing my eyes the sun melted my last resistance. Then hearing a birdcall, I sat up and looked across the lake where a massive cottonwood was speaking to me.”

September 23rd

“Taking the extra time for self-care can seem like an indulgence but it rights my world. A bath or a walk in the woods provides alone time in a supportive, sensual environment. Digging weeds in the garden is a great alternative.”

September 24th

“The mental computer loops through tasks while I practice coming back to my breath again and again. I always imagined I was 180 degrees different from the engineering lineage of my grandfather, father, uncles and brother…”

September 25th

~*~
This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.

Broken Open: Loss and Love

I have no desire to fix my mind so it will not feel saddened by loss.  I want to feel deeply, and whenever I am brokenhearted I emerge more compassionate.  I think I allow myself to be brokenhearted more easily, knowing I won’t be irrevocably shattered.

Sylvia Boorstein


~*~

PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

Describe a time of being brokenhearted.  How has it made you more compassionate, more shatterproof?  What do you want to convey to someone in the midst of loss?  

~*~

My mother’s death tore at the vestiges of a very thick wall surrounding my heart. I was
a hard nut to crack and her death rocked me to the core. I was thirty-three and she was
sixty-five and dying of lung cancer. She started smoking at age twelve.

Her illness came five years after a climbing accident where I sustained long-term injuries.
I had learned to grieve my own losses. This was different. Her dying broke through my
compulsive habits and stripped me clean of an eating disorder. I was feeling life so fully
I couldn’t stuff down my feelings with food anymore.

She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian
Paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. If my brother and I would
plead long enough she would cross her eyes, make the “funny face” and we’d be rolling
on the floor with laughter.

A dark veil would overcome Mom at times followed by raging tears and slamming doors.
The rest of us would tiptoe around the house for a day or two. She seldom talked about
the tragedies in her life but we gathered stories about her father’s alcohol induced death,
her mother’s early death from overeating and the loss of her older brother in WWII.

The learned family pattern of walling off pain was a strength in hard times and an
obstacle to deepening relationships. We were lucky to have a bond of love but often
didn’t know how to express it. My father’s mantra was “don’t cry.” Compulsions and
addictions dot our family tree.

In my work as a psychotherapist I spend a lot of time helping people cry. It’s the best
revenge. I’m not telling my Dad but I plan on crying my eyes out when he passes. He’s
ninety-three and tells me not to waste my time grieving when he dies. I love him and I
know better now.

~*~

This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.

Inner Aloneness: Listening and Learning

We need to be willing to risk the loss of external affirmation and approval if we are to know ourselves deeply.  We need to be willing to risk listening to ourselves as well as others.  The validity of our spiritual path can only be qualified by our own experience and understanding.  Through a path of contemplation and meditation, we can untangle the conditioning that leads us to prostrate ourselves before authority.  By cultivating a deep inner aloneness, we can nurture our inner resources of awareness and understanding.  A vision of our uniqueness is born, an authentic vision of who we are as opposed to who we have been told we should be.

Christina Feldman

PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

When have you risked listening to yourself contrary to others? Have you struggled with developing an “inner aloneness?”  Clarify what have been the dangers, the rewards?  

~*~
 This quote strikes at a core issue that has given me the most painful and productive lessons of my life.  Prostrating before authorities and ignoring my inner intelligence almost killed me.

Over 35 years ago I was smitten with a passion for working in the wilderness and exploring its terrain through climbing.  In technical situations involving ropes I was not always emotionally equipped to sort out what was best for me when others gave commands.

On a day when I was sick and upset I chose to listen to someone else over my own instincts and suffered a terrible climbing fall in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  I am very lucky to be alive yet sustained the loss of an eye and seriously injured my ankle.

For years after the accident I dreamt of climbing down anything and everything vertical.  My spiritual work was to come down to earth and to be in my body.  Brought to my knees, my psychotherapist held my hand and helped me grieve.

Before this experience I don’t think I ever knew an inner aloneness.  I now know it is the work of a lifetime.  Slowly I have learned to listen more closely to internal prompts, sorting out what is my truth from others.

While accomplishing much on the outer level to care for my basic needs, there are many subtle levels where I still grapple with confusion in making difficult decisions.  A significant example in my current life concerns the publication of a photography book I’ve worked on for the past five years.  It is my baby.

The proofs of the book from the printer have been miserable. The colors are off and the resolution has been poor.  I’m waiting on a third set and looking at other options.  I’ve created my own publishing company to make a high quality book affordable and all the decisions rest in my lap.

I know I need to wait until it looks right, even if I lose money and have to start all over.  Can I trust myself to do this?  Will I say “no” or let a few things slide because I don’t want to let someone else down?  It’s so my tendency to pretend everything is OK.

I’m putting this out to you because it helps to have a witness to my actions.  I know my friends will not collude with the self-sacrificing side of my personality.

In this very moment I get how little I have admitted to how painful this has been.  Arrgh.  Arrgggh.  Aarrrggghhh!!

You just helped.  I know you are listening.  I know someone shares the inner resources of awareness and understanding.  I know it is possible for me too.

Your kind response is appreciated.

~*~
This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.
                                                                      ~*~