Sunday, August 11, 2013
[This is a post I wrote over a year ago. I find that I have come full circle back to this image of falling away. Words, beliefs, expectations, judgments–all seem to be turning color and falling away like the leaves in autumn. This period of not blogging has been a time of experience and reflection rather than thinking and expression. And it is good.
Now I feel things stirring, moving in the direction of reconnecting. Experiences are starting to take some shape in words. Perhaps there is more to say. Perhaps there is something new to say. We’ll see.
And so, my friends, bear with me yet a little longer. Since this break stretched out much longer than I initially expected, it seems to be taking up a season rather than a month. It feels premature to cut into the remaining time of summer, the most beautiful summer I can ever remember. But when I come back from the creek at my cabin, and when I come inside from the garden, I will sit down at the computer and share some words and catch up with some of your words, too.
In the meantime, all my very best wishes to you.]
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
–Tao Te Ching
This phrase has been playing in my mind the last several weeks. It is often accompanied by a physical sensation of things falling away from me. When I try to describe it to someone, I find myself using my hands the way you would brush leaves or crumbs off your clothes. My hands start near my chest and move down the sides, flicking out near my hips, as though shaking off the last pieces that might be clinging to my fingertips. My hands instinctively do this while I’m searching for the words, but the only words that come out are “falling away, falling away, falling away.”
What is it that I’m shedding? I think back to when the sensation began. What was happening then?
One thing was that I decided to stop a spiritual study I was doing with someone I like very much. I like talking to people of faith, any faith, which includes everyone if you think about it. Even people who claim to have no faith have faith in its absence. I’m curious about what faith means to people, how faith guides them, how it manifests in their everyday lives. So I enjoyed my discussions with this person. It became clear, however, that we were reaching a point where I was being asked to make a choice, to commit to her view of things, to join her community of faith.
I felt sad about this because, as I had explained to her before, I already have a community of faith I am committed to, and I don’t plan to leave it. I also felt a bit flummoxed because declining her invitation seemed like a rejection of her beliefs. By her definition, it was, although I didn’t see it that way. A spiritual koan.
Another thing that was happening involves my recent interest in learning how to use nunchucks, a martial arts weapon made of two sticks joined by a chain. In the first lessons, the teacher showed me specific techniques, but there came day when he turned me loose, so to speak, to use the techniques in any combination I wanted, and furthermore to experiment with other techniques. I was initially paralyzed by the absence of specific instruction, but once I embraced the concept I found great freedom in letting the nunchucks fly, keeping them in motion without a lot of thinking and planning. When practicing privately, I discovered that closing my eyes and just feeling them in my hands enhanced both my ability and enjoyment.
What could these things have in common and how could they be connected to this sense of falling away? I’m not sure, but I keep going back to that passage from the Tao Te Ching quoted above. As a person who has spent waaaaay too much of my life living in my head, naming I’m sure ten thousand things and more, I’ve come to a place where the naming just doesn’t seem so important anymore. I don’t seem to crave that in-my-head rational clarity the way I used to.
Yes, we understand our world by naming it and explaining it, and communication requires common agreement on the meaning of certain words. But somewhere beyond that, or beneath it or inside it or over the rainbow (see what I mean about words?), all the names fall away.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.
–Tao Te Ching
related posts: Spiritual Simplicity; There is No Them