When I mindfully contact the fear I feel as I think about the Israel-Hamas war, the bars in the prison of my own mind bend a little, giving me some breathing room to process it all.
The other day I came across a very short poem by the 11th century Japanese woman poet Izumi Shikibu, and it struck a chord:
Although the windAlthough The Wind …
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks
of this ruined house.
the Israel-Hamas war
I knew in my heart there was some meaning to the poem’s effect on me, but I was not sure what it was. I had been scrolling through my news feed and feeling overwhelmed at all the darkness and uncertainty as I read about the Israel-Hamas war, the suffering of tens of thousands, and my own feelings of helplessness.
Our meditation practice teaches us to be purely and simply present, awake and aware, with no agenda at all, to everything, especially this darkness I feel.
the darkness in my heart
I reflect on a poem by Wendell Berry, To Know the Dark:
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
To know the dark, Berry says, go dark… and “find that the dark, too, blooms and sings.” We leave our judgements at the door, and surrender to what darkness has to teach us.
When I surrender to this darkness I feel as I think about the Israel-Hamas war, and mindfully contact this fear, the bars in the prison of my own mind bend a little, giving me some breathing room to process it all.
I feel myself melting into feelings of care despite the horrors.
Buddhism is called a “gradual training” because it’s practiced gradually, step by step. We learn from all the little openings and softenings we make every day.
The Dhammapada teaches:
Think not lightly of good, saying, “It will not come to me.” Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise person, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.
How do we fill ourselves with good, little by little, amid the horror unfolding on our screens?
Little by little, we open our hearts and soften to what is.
In a recent blog post, Nico Hase observes:
Just like a garden grows at midnight, your kindness and compassion can grow when you’re suffering. They can grow when you’re sick, or heartsick. They can grow when everything around you is falling apart.
He adds: “Sometimes, in fact, they grow better when things are worse”.
And then I saw why Izumi Shikibu’s poem hit me so hard.
It seems she was saying that if you live in a house that’s impermeable to the cold winds and storms and difficulties of this world, you will also wall yourself off from the moonlight.
(Whatever the moonlight may mean for you- safety, warmth, compassion).
I think she is saying for many of us our house needs to be ruined for the moonlight to get in. When the conditions seem the most challenging, they can also be seen as the most ideal, as Nico suggests above.
take refuge in our own vulnerability?
But can we take refuge in this tender, vulnerable place of being open to the way things are, right now?
With a spacious heart, we can remember the bigger picture? We are not the small self our fear preys on. We are life itself regenerating and refreshing itself every moment; we are vulnerable, and we are free.
“Ultimately it is upon your vulnerability that you depend,” the poet Rilke writes.
Listen to Mother Teresa:
If we have no peace, it’s because we’ve forgotten we belong to each other.
When we honor our vulnerability and our dependence on our communities, we open to love in the midst of darkness.
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