Friday, 22 October 2010


"Another Big Sky" by Rosa Yoskovsky

Hexagram 15, QIAN, is about perceiving and relating to things as they are, rather than embellishing, exaggerating, or minimising them. Bradford's keywords include:
Ordinary reality; genuine, unpretentious, accurate; consistent, basis in fact; stability, sobriety; curtailing the superfluous, accurate assessment, groundedness; simplicity, nothing extra or extraneous.  
It's about seeing what's there and telling it like it is, leaving behind the shuck 'n' jive, not needing to make things more interesting, or entertaining, or alter them to our own ends.

In the Dao De Jing, “uncut wood” is used as a metaphor for the “original nature” of things, before they are made over into something “useful” for our purposes. For me, this implies meeting the world with raw awareness, rather than through the filters of our models, which are basically stories we tell about the world, and the meanings we impose on it. There is nothing wrong with making meaning – it's part of what it is to be human – but the stories we tell are always partial, in both senses of the word: incomplete, and biased. And they obscure the intrinsic value of things as-they-are.

When we practise mindful awareness, immersing ourselves in direct first-person experience, we are simply trying to be as true to our own experience as we can. That experience will include both the 'external' world, experienced through our senses, and the internal world of our thoughts, feelings, and the quality of consciousness with which we meet them, as an ongoing process.

What is it to meet ourselves, each other, the world, with no preconceptions? With a sense of safety, so that we can touch and be touched without defences?

Many of us have only ever met our children in this way; some of us haven't met the world like this since we ourselves were children, with (to borrow Joni Mitchell's words) those “wide, wide open stares”.

But it's one thing to meet PRIOR to the formation of our defences and preconceptions; quite another to go BEYOND them, meeting the world directly, with maturity.

It may be simple, but it's not always easy. For in meeting the world directly, we must also meet all the reasons we do not. Peg Syverson says it so beautifully:

A bird song with the light rising behind it,
a slab of stone with a deep vein of color, a person
laying a whole life open right before you,
or the sharpened blade of pain in a shoulder
held for an eternity.

In “just sitting,” over and over again
we are stung by the complete failure
of every plan and strategy. And yet...

And yet, if you are like me you are both grateful
and terrified by the recognition
of this very life, bereft of all our fantasies and
illusions.  No use crying out “I am just one person!
What can I do about it?” Just stay.
The squirrel runs so lightly on the fence rail while I
struggle with my doubt and long for
a magic transformation into
something I can admire or even tolerate. Just stay.

The evening bells, the flame of a candle,
a long still evening ahead. In accepting
the gift of a life, even my own life, just this particular one
I took a dare. What can I make of this,
a human life? Days of rapture, nights of dread, 
the whole catastrophe, and yet, I wonder,
how simple can I let this be?

When you have nothing else to give,
offer the tenderness of your longing and the
awkwardness of your struggle. And on these
paltry crumbs you can feed multitudes.

                                               ~ from “How Simple”, by Peg Syverson

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