― Pema Chödrön
Friday, December 13, 2013
A Wing and a Prayer
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake
is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
― Pema Chödrön
― Pema Chödrön
``Do not be afraid," the Voice called to him. ``Hang on to the wind and trust!"
-- from "Tale of the Jumping Mouse",
in Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm
Back in 1970, my kid brother David, who was in many ways my main Guru long before I knew anything about gurus and the Practice, sent me a handwritten copy of the "Tale of the Jumping Mouse". (A denizen of Haight-Ashbury for years, David had come across it before it appeared in Hyemeyohsts Storm's Seven Arrows.)
I was transfixed. It was one of those stories. It resonated deeply with the Heart of the Matter for me. Stirred to the core, my heart chakra again opened through a torrent of tears. (Those were the days, huh.)
An allegory, "Tale of the Jumping Mouse" traces the journey of a simple mouse who heard something one day, a faint roaring sound that the others didn't appear to hear amidst the scramble of their day to day existence. His Essential Curiosity stirred, this mouse summoned up the courage to leave the confines of his normal life to discover a world of great beauty and magic. With the help and guidance of other creatures, through repeated acts of courage and the willingness to serve others again and again, he developed his Medicine as Jumping Mouse. In the end, (or perhaps, the beginning), the Jumping Mouse became Eagle.
Although, I probably personally identify more with the Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (another spiritual allegory of the early 1970's) than with an Eagle, I think that the symbol of flight captures something essential about the Spiritual Path. Years ago, I read of a society in the South Pacific where the children were taught to fly in their dreams as the main spiritual practice. Carl Jung believed that flying dreams symbolized the basic human desire for liberation. It seems pretty deep and universal.
So what does Sitting have to do with Flying?
It seems to me that the more we are grounded in the Practice, the more we appear able to soar into our lives with a sense of freedom and ease.
Through Mindfulness Meditation, our willingness and ability to Sit Still to face --and embrace -- every aspect of our conditioning as it appears in the moment, the "stuff" that keeps us landlocked increasingly melts away. As the Practice deepens and we are able to turn toward the fear that naturally arises, we see for ourselves the fluid and evanescent nature of our own experience. Paradoxically, our increasing capacity to actually feel the utter groundlessness that exists within the fabric of Life itself, enables us to gain solid enough footing to launch ourselves into the next moment --free as a bird.
Although any word picture of Shunyata, the essential emptiness asserted in Buddhism, is essentially limited, the clear blue sky is one image that is sometimes used. In the Tibetan Dzogchen, one of the meditative practices actually involves gazing at the sky as you visualize dissolving into its expanse on the outbreath. Although I've only dabbled with this particular practice over the years -- usually sitting outside at dawn or sunset -- Sitting Still at those times certainly seemed to be have provided some majestically beautiful moments.
The truth of the matter, though, is that a similar experience can emerge in the very next moment -- wherever you are.
It just takes Practice.