...The soul's awakening is a process in beauty...The beauty of soul...will show in the ways in which the psyche gives form to its contents...By being touched, moved, and opened by the experiences of the soul, one discovers that what goes on in the soul is not only interesting and meaningful, necessary and acceptable, but that it is beautiful..
~James Hillman (Cosmos)
Warm greetings to you all! I have been deeply moved by the many beautiful things sent in to be included in this newsletter. So, just wanted to say that I am so grateful for all that you’re each doing to reflect the gracious beauty of the soul in the world.
This newsletter begins with “Dharma Musings” from Jaya-ji, followed by a link to a gorgeous music video from Marisa Handler. Beka-ji offers a reflection on human relationship and the kind of deep learning that can arise out of it. Following that, you’ll find a short description of a wonderful organization, called Kiva, that offers a great opportunity for generosity to flower. And lastly, please look for the Open Dharma News notes at the bottom. Enjoy!
Erika and the Newsletter Team
As we learn to see things as they are and as we try to embody what is important, we can encourage each other a lot. I think we humans have the power of language for just that reason: to listen well and to encourage each other in what is true. Sometimes the only way one can “keep on keeping on” is by resting on the lap of reassurance or on the shoulder of a clear perspective. Sharing words can help us enter into that magical space of true meeting—“not two, not one.”
Yet to honor that support is to know when we need not to look for reassurance. We can feel the momentum of love’s unfolding and let that flow feed itself without checking outside references. We can feel the flow of “practice” or transformation as complete in itself. We can better meet as not two, not one, without fumbling for approval or mental understanding. We do not need to enter into the story we tell of our spiritual path –which so often has nothing to do with what’s really happening.
Sometimes past encouragement from others has been such a big help that we simply look for it out of habit--even when to look for it breaks our flow. Sometimes to look for encouragement engages us in a particular story of our spiritual life-- with certain “issues”-- and how we are doing on those issues, and how we are going to improve that storyline.
Many times the obstacles we think we are working on have nothing to do with the real, dynamic transformation that is also going on.
And then, we can feel the natural joy of letting things fall into place. Sometimes nothing much matters except that one, tiny, vast “gesture” that we know is ours—a release of the heart, to be uplifted, out of nowhere, by life. The one heart we have, “not-two” with life.
Love Song to the Universe
A member of our sangha has written this gorgeous song that I couldn’t resist sharing with you all. Take a moment, if you feel inspired, to listen and watch her music video on you tube. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJPjH8z7OYw
A note from Marisa about her song:
I call this song my "love song to the universe" because I wrote it with no specific person in mind, but rather in homage to what Rainer Maria Rilke called "the one who is coming, who has been approaching from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree whose leaves we are."
The Rise and Fall of Small Me
Intimate relationships are the supreme source of complex and painful scenarios. Life seemed so much simpler on my own. Simpler yet, on a fundamental human level, not complete. And we are all, afterall, human. So, what is it to be human in relationship but not caught up in the human story, the me that wants, needs, feels lack, feels abandoned, etc, etc?
With this enquiry my partner and I recently decided to join together with two other couples to form a Couples Group – a forum or opportunity to explore the intricate dynamics of partnership with a clear willingness to take risks where necessary and thus, expose parts of ourselves that may make us feel uncomfortable, perhaps vulnerable.
In the first meeting I suggested we use a format I had used in the Dharma Facilitators Programme whereby one person/partner asks a question to the other person/partner and listens, only asking prompting questions based around the original question, not making any comments on what is said. The other person/partner will answer the question, speaking from an authentic place - from the heart. The other two couples witness the interaction and after 10 minutes give feedback. The couple being witnessed then swap – again, one is the listener/questioner and the other is the speaker. Again, feedback after 10 minutes.
The question to be explored was a potent one: “What stops you from being free in this relationship?’ During my turn for speaking I began to describe specific situations and how I feel within them. I described a feeling of contraction, of smallness, a feeling of being abandoned and of not belonging – something that has been familiar to me ever since I can remember. As I continued to describe the ‘small me’experience and noticing how I wasn’t in that state in that moment, there was suddenly a clattering sound on the floor nearby. When we looked, a small figure of about 5 inches tall was lying on the floor. It was a very familiar figure as it had sat, literally, on a small cupboard in the hallway ever since I had lived in the flat and had, to my knowledge, never been moved. It was, in fact, out of reach, therefore, so unlikely to be moved. In that moment nobody had walked passed and nobody had been moving around in the building at all (something you are always aware of). It was quite perplexing, and at the same time, quite perfect. I think we all saw how poignant this was – in the moment of describing being small I had not felt so small, it had lost its charge and it was as if this small figure was the small me falling, no longer having the power.
For the first time I looked properly at this figure and saw how innocent it was, perhaps even cute. Somehow though, it had always been there, in the background and so was familiar, part of my life. Now I had no choice but to really look at it, be with it, acknowledge it fully, not deny it. It has become symbolic to me of how easy it is to make an enemy of my neurosis, of how I can create resistance to the smallness of myself, instead of acknowledging my own dear vulnerability. It is an example of how I take for granted that this is part of me, instead of taking a good hard look at it and making it be part of my living room, my life.
It is also something I wish to thank my partner Luke for because about a year ago when I first showed him my small side he turned to me and very kindly and gently said, ‘I need you to be small sometimes otherwise I wouldn’t know all of who you are.’ A moment of revelation! - that I could be small and be loved at the same time and in this way, I could begin to love the smallness. I have become aquainted with small me these days and have it sitting right in the middle of the living room, on the table, right where I can see it. Sometimes I smile at it. Sometimes I’m sure it winks back.
If you’re feeling inspired, lately, to act on the natural impulse towards generosity there is an amazing organization, called Kiva, that I’d like to share with you. Kiva connects donors (us!) with people who are working to better their own lives and those of their communities in challenging situations all over the world.
Here is a short description of the organization from Kiva itself (via an email from our own Juha-ji): “You choose who to lend to – whether a baker in Aghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a resterateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq – and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.”
I’ve lent to several different people/teams of people over the past year and found it a deeply fulfilling, sustainable, and intimate way to offer what I can, back to the world, in a way that feels honest and direct.
If you’d like to take a deeper look, here’s the link: http://www.kiva.org
Open Dharma News
Gemma will take time off from teaching group retreats starting in August. She still intends to go to India for “the season,” and she is still available to support people whenever she is at Dharmaloca.
~Sattal retreats in March and April:
The Ashram of “Seven Lakes” has confirmed that we can hold our retreats there again this spring. We plan to do one or two 7- or 10-day retreats in March and a 1-month retreat in April. Dates are still in the works.
Nature - Interaction - Silence
If you are organizing a fund-raising event/activity, please email the fund-raising info coordinator (Benoit) at: fundraising (AT) opencentre.es with details of your event, so that we can happily share it with others.
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