Refuge

I don’t know why I am surprised by the wintry dull day that sits close to the sky. It happens every year in November. The month of the dog. The light is squeezed. Like a large hand has wrung it out of the day. I can’t believe how I used to take light for granted, growing up in Africa: you just expected it to be there of a morning. Bright and early, sunshine superman. Maybe not that – sunshine superwoman making it all more up to date. Sometimes at five in the evening there would be a thunderstorm and drench time – a hard rain cooling everything down – the evening would usually end up dry. Twilight never dragged and the night insects couldn’t wait to soundtrack the night. Back to the present, to the now, thousands of miles away to the cold north, this year seems so different. If feels existential and sombre. The general exhaustion of all that is being dished up to us. Is it how the damp earth and the infuriating wind is all the gloomier in the cabin fevered life of the lockdown or is it the general madness and uncertainty? The wiser words – put that aside – there is a refuge – and seize the impermanence and celebrate the not knowing.

© Rick Frame


Visitors


October is playing itself out. November is in view. British summer time ends tonight and two hours behind Joburg. Lying awake with the weak, thin sunrise outlining the curtains, the coming winter seemed to stretch far into the distance, beyond even March. Social distance on steroids. These visitors with no warmth and no heart as the earth tailspins into more contagion. Then I remembered. The refuge of the kind word, the wisdom to understand that a range of responses is open to us. The inner life that can breathe us with wildness, and opening up a belief we can go on and not allow the drenching fear to keep us stuck. To let go and trust our experience, even in the suffering and that fear is only a visitor. Welcome it in but don’t let it have the run of the house.

Inspired by a conversation between Sharon Salzberg and Krista Tippet (On Being)

© Rick Frame


Circle back

It came to me, landing on the soft spot, to stop 
Getting in my own way. It is the place that I stand when 
My feet are sore, to return here: 
'No one can do more harm, neither a thief or a hater, 
More than your own untrained mind.' 
To meet this moment fresh, this invitation to 
Circle back to the idea that 'no one can do more benefit, 
More good, neither a friend, nor a lover, your parents, than your 
Well-trained and well-directed mind,' 
Opening up your wildness and your immensity.

Inspired by Padraig O Tuama in a conversation with Krista Tippett, On Being and a talk given by Oren Jay Sofer to the Seattle Insight Meditation Society in which Oren read from the Dhammapada.

Dealing with our stuff

img_0130-2 I just love this conversation between Krista Tippett and angel Kyodo williams talking about meditation. The podcast and transcript can be found https://onbeing.org/programs/the-world-is-our-field-of-practice-apr2018/

ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS is the founder of the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, California. She’s the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace and Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation.

 

I have looked at only one aspect of the conversation – the practice of sitting meditation.

williams is a Zen priest and offers incredible insights into the sitting practice. When we sit in meditation we experience and observe enormous number of emotions that we think are ours. This extract helps us make sense of emotions – we often take on others – and the language and imagery is explored in such a way that it landed on me and got me thinking.

In taking up bits from the conversation, I am captured by the idea of the emotions in a house and the layeredness of them. Here Tippett shows the idea in an instant – “we sit and feel”. What a wonderful way to see it.

MS. TIPPETT: One of the words you used, when you were writing in 2016 about what this moment requires of us, is that it calls for “pause.” And you come from a tradition, a spiritual tradition, which has sitting at its core — “So we sit, and we feel” — I want you to unfold that a little bit, because this thing we’re talking about, it’s so countercultural; it can so easily sound like this is about not being relevant and not attending to what is urgent. But sitting, as you — and what happens in sitting and in pausing is not about not acting. It’s a different move, so just take us inside that.

williams picks up the language of the “different move” but her response eloquently demonstrates how we interpret our feelings and, as she says, they ‘are not clean, or not free of all of the things that are impacting us outside’:

REV. WILLIAMS: Yeah, I love that — “It’s a different move.” There is so much momentum to every aspect of what drives us, what moves us, what has us hurtling through space, including all of our thoughts and even our own sense of our emotions; how we interpret any given feeling, any experience of discomfort; where that discomfort sits in our bodies. It’s not just that we have a feeling of pain or awkwardness. It’s that we then interpret that.

And those interpretations — much to our chagrin, we come to understand through a process of observing them — are not clean, or not free of all of the things that are impacting us outside. And so even our sense of what pains us and what makes us feel shame, feel guilt, feel awkwardness, feel put-upon by people, feel disempowered, has to do with the external information and cues that we have received. And they’re moving at an incredible rate of speed. And, for the most part, we almost never get the opportunity to observe them and sort through them — kind of like that drawer that collects everything in your house.

MS. TIPPETT: I have a few of those.

For me, the house imagery really says it all:

REV. WILLIAMS: Yeah, where you say, “Oh, but wait a minute, someone lived in this house before me,” in essence. “And some of that stuff is not mine. Actually, this is not mine. That’s my mom’s. This is not mine; that’s the inheritance of white supremacy,” or, “That’s the inheritance of generations of oppression and marginalization that subjects me to habitually feeling less-than, even if the current situation has no intent to make me feel that way.” And we have no real way of being able to discern what is mine, what is yours, what are we holding collectively, what have I inherited, what have I taken on as a measure of protection, of a way to cope at some point in my life or past lives, that I no longer need?

As williams says, there is no quick fix to get to the other side of how it can get to be and really is a daily process. williams again:

And sitting lets us begin to do that. It doesn’t do it right away, because what we first are confronted with is just the assault of the amount of thoughts and the mixed messages that just inhabit our body and our mind and our experience on an ongoing basis — that when we sit, the first thing we’re met with is not quiet or calm or peace. The first thing we’re met with is, “Oh, my God. Who is in here, and why won’t they shut up? How do I get them to stop?” And not only is something and someone and everyone speaking to me, it’s mixed messages. Things don’t agree with each other. I don’t agree with my own truth. I’m having arguments in here that are not my arguments, they are someone else’s arguments. They’re my parents’ arguments.

For the first time in my life, I have heard someone explore with such precision what happens to our thoughts and emotions. So often they are not our own and yet we make them our own – they are someone else’s arguments. Wow, what simplicity and so much power. williams continues by saying how important sitting is:

Sitting lets us just, first of all, recognize that we are this massive collection of thoughts and experiences and sensations that are moving at the speed of light and that we never get a chance to just be still and pause and look at them, just for what they are, and then slowly to sort out our own voice from the rest of the thoughts, emotions, the interpretations, the habits, the momentums that are just trying to overwhelm us at any given moment.

Ultimately, I am drawn to this because of the way in which williams singles out our own agency, our own choice, that we don’t have to be this or that or yanked around by other’s emotions. It gives a boundary that is quite extraordinary.

And when I say “trying to overwhelm us,” that’s really a key thing to understand, because that means that there’s an “us.” There’s a core and deep and abiding “us” that is being overwhelmed by something that’s actually not us. And when we become aware of it, we’re like: “Oh, I actually have some choice here.”

I believe it is grace that brings us to hear such incredible insights. I am so often aware how there is not a non-stop flight to our destination but rather short hauls to the next place where we are given opportunities to learn more deeply about ourselves and how we deal with stuff. Krista Tippett and angel Kyodo williams have been great travelling companions and I am grateful to them for how they help us to find our own voice with a language and clarity that I never thought possible.

Steering wheels

It troubled me that I had ruminated for far too long and the fact that he had not even bothered to see things from my perspective.

Yesterday, I was driving onto the slipway from the direction of Bracknell onto the M4 but suddenly panicked that I had to give way, so slowed down to have a look to see if I could go.

The man in the white van behind me gave me an irritated honk on his hooter. I looked back in the mirror and said out loud, ‘give me a break, mate’; but the image of him with his arms waving in annoyed righteousness got right under my skin in an instant and became a permanent marker on my brain –  as did the ‘fuck off, wanker’ that I huffed when he overtook me.

It took me some considerable time to climb down from the ceiling of the car (and it’s not that far to go) and get over this little moment of road rage; this incident even came to me as I emerged into this morning’s wakefulness.

It troubled me that I had ruminated for far too long and the fact that he had not even bothered to see things from my perspective. This thought caught me in my tracks and I decided to see things from his perspective and get behind his steering wheel –  he knew the road intimately I suspected and suddenly this car in front of him was slowing down for no apparent reason.  It was a slipway after all. I would have got a fright too and so there and then sent out to him my good wishes.

I immediately felt better for trying to see things from his steering wheel and not mine.

The ‘Blue’ in School

20140406_185556
Blue at sunset Camps Bay

It’s about the way that humans see the world and how until we have a way to describe something, even something so fundamental as a color, we may not even notice that it’s there.

Kevin Loria

I had no idea that the Ancient Greeks had no word for the colour blue until I read a review on one of Brene Brown’s books and there was a reference to Kevin Loria’s article in Business Insider UK. And it seems that these ancient peoples were not alone – Hebrew, Chinese, Icelandic.

And that got me thinking.

I often struggle to find the right language to explain something new.  A new feeling, an epiphany, a breakthrough, a struggle, a re-imagining.

So that’s why this is the School Of Blue.

Blue is the journey. And so this blog is very much about breakthroughs and coming through a space that that is uncomfortable and disruptive.

It is the liminal space of not knowing to the knowing and maybe still not knowing.

© Rick Frame