Opening the Blossom of the Real

IMG_1576Forgive me as I work out some thoughts here, out loud. Perhaps some of them may bloom.

I woke in the middle of the night last night with a stark, shamelessly Zen poem in my head:

No gate.
No goal.
No high.

No way.
No one.
No how.

beyond and
here and

At first I had no idea how this might connect into my life right now. But as I lay awake staring at the shapes of trees in the fog, something started to form in my mind.

Over this summer I feel like I have been mirroring ferocity, fear, caring, judgment, guilt, and protectiveness in people I know. I have felt how we draw qualities, that often stay in the shadows, out in one another, when we are open to the complexities of life.

I woke up last night to the almost embarrassingly obvious realization that I feel a sense of compulsion to defend and protect people of color, and colonized peoples, because of my identity as a white American. Perhaps also because of my identity as an Irish-American, feeling that we missed our opportunity to express solidarity and connection with other colonized and oppressed people in this country (unlike the way that so many Jewish leaders took such a public stand against racism during the civil rights era). Because of a sense that many (not all) Irish-Americans chose the path of climbing up and out of their bodies, history, and experience of suffering, in order to leave the sadness and pain of famine and colonization behind.  We chose transcendence, and in the process lost a deep connection to soul.

But in the night last night this sense of guilt and protectiveness suddenly felt like it was based on the small “I.”

Instead of acting from a small sense of identity, can I work to shift my intention — through meditation, love, deep listening — to create conditions of awakening for all people, because we all suffer? Can I stop relativizing and personalizing pain? Because suffering is intimate everywhere.

Okay, I want to be on that path, and sometimes I feel that I am.  But my heart is still not at ease.  Because even if I make space for this bigger intention, it still remains true that social and cultural conditions have set up things called race, called gender, called difference, that have made suffering particularly intense for particular groups of people.  Given that I live in this conditioned world, do I have an obligation to work to undo or ease those particular kinds of suffering, the sufferings particular to our world, here and now?

I can see the suffering, the heart, of people with whom I disagree.
I can also see the importance of speaking the truth of particular sufferings out loud. I can choose to say the word nakba — catastrophe (Palestinian) — out loud. To say famine (Irish). To say slavery (African). To say displacement (Cherokee). To say genocide (Jewish). To say oppression (LGBT). And on and on and on… I can choose to go behind the “no trespassing sign,” and speak what I find there.

To say craving. To say ignorance. To say aversion. When I find them in myself.
I think these things need to be said out loud:

That we all suffer equally because we think things are real.
And that things are real.

beyond and
here and

May these words, somehow, bloom and come to life inside your lives, the way they are trying to bloom inside mine.



Note: This post was originally titled “Late Summer Bloomings.” But it never had quite the right ring.


4 thoughts on “Opening the Blossom of the Real

  1. Dear Amy ~
    Responding to your valued deep questioning here rather than via PZI.
    As an elder (75), psychotherapist, longtime practitioner (Tibetan Buddhism, Gurdjieff Work, Zen), writer, editor and grandma, whose relatives were non-survivors of the Nazi Holocaust ~ here in 2014, my deepest “knowing” continues to tell me that to saccharinize (or evaporate) existence, say it’s all illusory, that everything exactly as-it-is ~ is perfection, and that “awakening” = transcending (going beyond) embodied experiencing, readily slides, experientially, into a radical form of nihilism. (To the experiencer, is it really “perfect” to have your legs blown off at the Boston Marathon, or to be beheaded…and so on and on?)
    And so, in the “way of the Bodhisattva,” my sense is that given this “precious human birth,” I am purposed not only to “do no harm,” but TO ACT in ways tiny and large, alone and with others, to relieve the world and my fellow beings ~ “sentient” and non- ~ of suffering.
    Through various embodied attention practices (“spirituality” as experienced, rather than as believed), I keep growing more skilled at recognizing “idiot” compassion (as Trungpa Rinpoche called it) ~ at saying and acting from deep caring presence rather than reacting from conditioned habitual patterns. There’s a very different bodily-felt-sense to these two modes and try my best to “aware” (and be kindly okay with when I don’t).
    Placing my back gently against yours, I’d say for me, right now, maybe it’s ~
    “Buddha beyond-and-intimately-within here and now.”
    I’m appreciating your blog ~ and you!
    With great warmth ~

    • Terra – I am so deeply appreciating your own embodied wisdom and practice. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and share your journey. When I get stopped up, recently, it has usually been from a sense that things are so immense and complicated, how can I even know that my intentions will flow into any desired outcome? So I choose to narrow my perspective and work with what is right around me. What I’ve discovered is that sometimes the “immense” things really do dwell right around me, intimately, in surprising ways. Abrazos, Amy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *