The Floating Market: Mindful Beauty

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Mindfulness enables us to cultivate a different quality of attention, one where we relate to what we see before us not just as an echo of the past or a foreshadowing of the future, but more as it is right now.  Here too we find the power of kindness because we can connect to things as they are.                                    ~ Sharon Salzberg

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Sharon’s quote brings us to the here and now.  We can see the beauty in simple things, the fruits of our labor and the tranquility of rest.  I was struck by these images in at the floating market, a place where chaos can seem to reign until you notice the details.

Each individual paddling her or his boat was attentive in the crowded canal to every other person and their needs.  The boats full of fruit or vegetables were objects of art, the empty boats like fallow fields. I felt blessed to be brought to moments of contemplation in the bustle of the market place.

IMG_4653Thank you for your continued support and subscriptions to Follow the Female Buddha.

Best wishes in the New Year,

Deborah

www.thefemalebuddha.com 

Buddha, Birds and Freedom: Photos from Burma

For those whom there is no hoarding,

Who have fully understood the nature of food,

And whose pasture is freedom

That is empty, that has no sign,

Their course is as hard to trace

As that of birds in the sky.

The Buddha ~ The Dhammapada


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The quote by the Buddha refers to the quality of freedom experienced by the enlightened, leaving no trace like a bird in the sky.  Empty of any “baggage”, the sages freedom is without the things we hoard and the desires that drive our clinging to the material world.  We can understand this metaphor to also refer to all hoarding; of our past wounds, of our future expectations and ultimately, our sense of self.  Freedom is liberation of the heart and mind, an experience aptly described by the flight of a bird in the clean, bright, open blue sky.

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Two years ago we had the delight to visit Shwedagon temple in Rangoon with many  outdoor altars and many golden Buddhas.  Pilgrims left plates of rice offerings and the crows kept the offerings fresh by waiting on top of a Buddha’s head and regularly cleaning the plates.  I found the juxtaposition of the many Buddhas and   crows delightful.  At home when reviewing my photos I found more crows in the shots than I remembered! Can you find them too?

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When looking for images to offer for the holiday season I found myself drawn to these photographs and wanted to offer something playful and rich.  May you delight in this season of renewal and freedom.

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Earth Goddess confirming the Buddha’s Awakening

The Buddha and the Earth Goddess, Luang Prabang, Laos.

After sitting for seven days under a Bodhi tree, some 2500 years ago, The Buddha was challenged by “Maras”, nightmarish demons questioning the authenticity of his realization. In response to the Mara’s attack the Buddha touched the earth asking for witness to his enlightenment.

In the mythology of Southeast Asia, when the Buddha touched the ground, the earth goddess rose up and wrung an ocean of water from her hair. The earth shook and the demons vanished.

He reconciled the demons of self doubt, perhaps his version of the inner critic.  He was wrestling with his capacity to take what he had learned and communicate it effectively in the world. In his meditation, the Buddha discovered a path to relieve suffering in the world.

When we humbly touch the earth as our witness, we touch into the truth of our own being and discover confidence. We ground in the groundlessness of an ever shifting reality.  We wring ourselves of illusion and allow the demons of our imagination to dissolve in the ground of awareness.

The earth goddess represents the “ground” of our experience in the here and now.  She symbolizes the feminine principles of relationship, the cycles of life and humility.  Humus is the root of the word humus, the fertile decaying material of the soil, not unlike the mud from which a lotus grows.

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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

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