21
Apr 14

Entering the Temple

Stillness

 

Late yesterday afternoon, ten of us sat in a sunset-washed yoga studio, practicing being still together, noting in the barest, sparest way how it feels to be in a body.  By noting in a bare and spare way, I mean we practiced gently restraining thought, allowing our sensations and feelings to arise and present themselves effortlessly, without commentary and judgments–including judgments about our inevitable thoughts and judgments.

For me, the stillness of our shared meditation had a holiness about it that went beyond associating the day with Easter.  There was a sense of returning to the greater Whole that went beyond the experience of remembering that I have a body, that I am present on the earth, breathing and alive.  Sometimes when we sit, the sensation of being whole opens into the sense that we are part of a greater wholeness–a light of awareness appears that seems to come from a greater Whole.

After we sat together, someone shared an experience that happened during the recent Passover holiday.  In the midst of an ordinary reaction to a family member, another way of seeing and feeling suddenly opened in her, allowing her to see that her sister and everything that was all right, just perfect just as it was.  I thought of something that I once heard from a great teacher–that the truth cannot be thought, that the truth is not a proposition but living reality to be perceived.   Sometimes, as my friend did, we experience being filled with a light of awareness that is finer than thought, that is made of an energy that is not separate from wisdom or compassion, not separate from the Whole.

Einstein famously tells us that problems cannot be solved on the same level they are created.  Meditation is one way to contact this higher level.  Another noble friend who came to meditate last night, compared meditation and prayer, offering that mediation is being with what is while prayer is more often seeking (even if it is seeking to praise).   We spoke of the kind of prayer that is deep listening—a listening that is not separate from the sense of being listened to by a greater Whole.   We could substitute seeing or receiving or perceiving.

In years past during our Sunday meditations, we spoke about the word “contemplate,” that it comes from a Latin root that means to come into the temple (originally not a building but an empty space set apart for reading augurs or signs—for reading the way things are).   Sometimes when we sit and turn our attention to our experience just as it is, when we re-enter the temple of our own mysterious bodies, we can perceive what is usually imperceptible, that we are surrounded and filled by the unknown.

This week, if you wish, join us as see how deeper truths open to us at moments, right in the midst of our ordinary lives.  Open to the possibility that a great and mysterious Wholeness can find you right where you are…as if we have never really been apart.

 


16
Apr 14

Including the Body

Leonardo_da_Vinci-_Vitruvian_ManParabola’s upcoming “Embodiment” is being printed and packed for shipping as we speak.  The frantic, last-minute push is over, and now a space opens, a time for collecting ourselves.  It is now Passover and Holy Week, an especially rich time to contemplate being in a body.

We invite you to try this gentle exercise, best done in the stillness of sitting or being in nature.  Without adding any thoughts, gently restraining the impulse to analysis or any kind of metaphorical or theological fanciness, allow yourself to notice “there is a body.”  Be patient and gentle with yourself.  Allow any background noise of thought or the life outside to be just that, background noise.  Allow the sensation of being in a body may appear.

The Buddha instructed his followers to abide contemplating the body internally, which is what we usually do when we meditate or often when we are relaxed and walking or sitting in nature.  He also invited people to contemplate the body externally, which can mean observing other bodies around us–not with judgment and comparison as we usually do but with an awareness that we humans are alike under the skin, all suffering, all striving, all awake and asleep by turns, at peace or gripped by fear or desire of some other conditioning.

Yet the Buddha also added an instruction to “abide contemplating both internally and externally.”    This can mean having a two-way attention, sensing ourselves while being aware of the impact of our words and actions and presence on others and in the world around us.  We humbly invite you to try this in the coming days.  It can be amazing to see how opening to sensation and direct seeing–how inviting the whole of ourselves to be present–can support a deeper understanding of great and mysterious Truth.


09
Apr 14

Samadhi

Last Sunday evening, a group of us meditated and exchanged about what the Buddha meant by the word “samadhi” — a word usually translated as “concentration.”  I don’t know about you, but I dreaded the word and the state that I thought went with it.  I associated concentration the kind of grim mental effort I made in college, usually the night before a test or a paper was due and fueled by lots of coffee and cigarettes and fear.  In meditation, I believed I strongly preferred  mindfulness, a sky-like state of awareness that would alight on things like a butterfly and move on.   But turns out that those beautiful moments of alighting on a sensation or a sound were moments of samadhi.

It was revelation to discover that samadhi happens when we are free from stress and strain.  In his classic teaching on meditation, The Satipatthana Sutra, the Buddha describes concentration as being “free from desires and discontent with regard to the world.”  It the blossoming of attention and joy that can appear when we are fully present. Ajahn Sucitto, an English monk in the Thai Forest tradition,  describes the joy that comes when we let go of all the tensions and thoughts that keep us from being fully present (quote via Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein):

“Receiving joy is another way to say enjoyment, and samadhi is the act of refined enjoyment.  It is based in skillfulness.  It is the careful collection of oneself into the joy of the present moment.  Joyfulness means there’s no fear, no tension, no ‘ought to.’ There isn’t anything we have to do about it.  It’s just this.”

 


11
Mar 14

From “I” to “We”

Sunset“‘Each one, on his own, wouldn’t be able to do it,’” said a policeman whose job it was to guard some 7 million people bathing in the icy Ganges last February, 2013.  ”‘They give each other strength.’”  Can being with others–even in conditions of dense crowding and pollution–actually be good for our bodies, hearts, and minds?  The quote above is from an article in a recent National Geographic by Laura Spinney, who followed psychologist Stephen Reicher of the University of St. Andrews in the U.K., as he explored how being part of a crowd can help us in tangible and intangible ways.  ”‘They help form our sense of who we are, they help form our relations to others, they den help determine our physical well being,’” Reicher told Spinney.

Reicher echoed a theory that originated with the 19th-century French  sociologist Emile Durkheim, who called the positive energy that can come off a crowd “collective effervescence.”  This idea fell into shadow during the mass violence of the 20th Century, but was he on to something?  To find out, Reicher and colleagues traveled to the Maha Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival in India that drew at its peak 30 million people.  In spite of rough conditions, unheated tents, crowding, solid evidence that the Ganges is neither drinkable or safe to bathe in, the mostly elderly pilgrims reported feeling rejuvenated.

How can this be?  Scientists speak of an “urban advantage” when it comes to health, and not just health but the development of art, knowledge, wealth.  The key to the positive benefits seems to reside in the shift from a mere physical crowd to a psychological crowd–in the shift from “I” to “we.”  Indeed, after the great Hindu religious festival broke up and people were headed home, there was a stampede at a train station that killed 36 people. They stopped being in a state of “we,” and shifted back to “I” (or maybe “me first.”)

During the festival proper (which drew 70 million people over 56 days!) there were no outbreaks of serious disease and an observing Harvard professor of planning and design was amazed at how clean and beautifully organized the whole thing was.  Most mysterious intriguing, the people interviewed reported feeling better afterwards–for a long time afterwards.

I can’t help thinking about how well I felt in India–not that I did any bathing in the icy, polluted Ganges or dwelled in an unheated tent in such a huge crowd.  But I did glimpse what it can feel like to shift from “I” to “we.”   Home again, I can’t help thinking about how it feels to sit with others as opposed to sitting alone.  There is an energy that appears and supports us all.  And even sitting alone, I feel (at least sometimes) as if I am with others, and with God.

I can’t help but think of the generous and accomplished woman at the party in Mumbai who said that in the end no one matters, that it is only passion, love, a certain quality of feeling that matters,  I think of the people I met there who were actively shifting from “I” to “we” — shifting from high-earning careers to living in a shared world.   It is beginning to dawn on me that the passion that matters–the quality of mind the Buddha called “ardent” or “long-enduring mind”–comes to us as we shift away from ourselves.  It is beginning to dawn on me that there may be a way out of this global crisis we are in, that there may be a vast renewable resource available with the flip of a switch, from “I” to “We.”

 


01
Mar 14

Exterminating Angel

One dark and stormy night, taking advantage of the enforced intimacy that comes when a hurricane knocks the power out and trees are down in the roads and all you can do is huddle near the wood stove, I asked the young man who is now my son-in-law what he learned from his study of theoretical physics.  I mean what about string theory and the 11th dimension and what not might be applied to everyday life.

I immediately regretted this blurt, fearing that it might come across as a bluntly American/ New Yorky kind of challenge–whaddyagonnado wit all dis stuff?   Plus, he had already been through a lot.  In the space of a week, the poor English lad had experienced a mild earthquake, a hurricane, and major power outage.  ”Tell him we like to show our foreign guests a really big time,” said my father.

To my relief he answered immediately.  ”No one is special,” he said.  He explained (and I paraphrase) that in light of the inconceivable vastness of reality,  in light of our inconceivably infinitesimal teeny weaniness in relation to it all, the very idea of insisting on any kind of singular and isolated specialness is just completely ridiculous.

I believed this was true, but it haunted me.  In the light of this all this vastness, what matters, what can guide us?  Near the end of my recent amazing trip to India, the answer suddenly and unexpectedly fell into place.

I was at a party in Mumbai. It was a beautiful night in every sense.  The apartment was full of art and music and opened onto a big terrace overlooking the Arabian sea.  The night air was soft and the air scented with an unnamable combination of spices and all the people gathered there seemed to be very accomplished and creative, but also searching and questioning in a sincere way.   The conversation turned to what it takes to live a life that matters.

In the end, nothing matters, and no one, said an attractive older woman who managed to combine approachable warmth with a regal bearing. In light of eternity, nothing and no one matters, not Gandhi, no one.  She had everyone’s attention.  Passion matters, she added, and the sense was that she meant being connected with what you were doing, being in alignment with a meaning beyond yourself.

She spoke quietly but firmly, not arguing a point but sharing a hard won truth.   The conversation rolled on in to the subject of changing paths from money to meaning, to the chance encounters that sparked this change (one man there left the Wharton School for music after an encounter with an exterminating angel–literally, a bug exterminator who sat down and talked to him about what really mattered).  The quiet words that woman said burrowed into me like a really beneficial virus.

I think people can come into our lives like guiding angels (this particular angel was not an exterminator but a distinguished Indian business woman).  With a few remarks she helped me see that the guide I was really looking for was an inner guide.  The guide was knowing whether we are really in alignment with a greater energy, whether we are really outside the prison of self, engaged in the dance of life, open to vastness.


25
Feb 14

India, Part II

After the Gandhi 3.0 retreat ended, a small group of us visited an Indian village where people live as most people have always lived, cooking over fires, working very hard for food and water, dependent on the help of oxen and camels other animals, dependent on the help of God and each other.  My friends and I saw so much, rode on an ox cart, had tea with a saintly man.  But after many hours I began to feel weak from the heat and hunger and probably from the sheer exposure to this new ancient world.  Just then, a woman sitting on the ground making her daily bread over a small fire waved us over, inviting us to sit down and share this bread.

The next day, in the midst of an urban slum, something similar happened.  Starting at Gandhi’s famous ashram in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, the same small group of us visited a school and a pre-school and a center for women–all efforts begun without money or plan, begun with a simple impulse to sit down and listen and witness, to be the change, as Gandhi said.  Hours passed and again I grew hungry and thirsty (who travels to India and forgets to bring a water bottle?).  Our guide decided to take a short cut back to the Gandhi ashram where we were having lunch.  The short way turned out to cross a vast dump where many people live in tents and flimsy shanties.  While my fellow travelers greeted smiling people and hugged children, a great stillness descended over me.  I began to feel what it might be like here during monsoons, or at night without electric lights, or day after day.  How could hope or spirit ignite?  Once again, I felt weak and looked up to see another woman gesturing, inviting us to have tea.

I was hungry and thirsty and you offered me food and drink.  I thought these words this morning, in the pre-dawn of consciousness when deeper feelings and knowings draw close to the surface.  It was as if an ancient sacred proverb swam up from unknown depths, as if a great question of life was being answered. As if it was the question about the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it– does it make a sound?  In light of all the suffering and darkness and intricately complex challenges in India and the whole world, do small acts of kindness, small moments of opening to give and receive really make a sound?

Yes. In bed under many blankets in wintery New York, those scenes in India sounded in the depths of me like a big bell.  It was as if a sacred truth–a sacred relationship or  covenant–was embodied for me.  Give us this day our daily bread…How had it not dawned on me that there is something divine about giving bread?  I thought of the man who would be the Buddha, the Awakened One, being offered food when he was starving and broken.  How had I not realized that receiving this gift was the moment he began to realize the great truth of our interconnection.

In the days to come, I travelled more, flying to the heart of India, to stay briefly at the Vinoba Ashram and Gandhi’s Sevagram Ashram.  I attended events in glittering Mumbai (accurately described to me as New York on steroids). I travelled more or less as a child would, clueless about where I was going, surrendering to the large and small kindnesses that were constantly offered.

While at the Vinoba Ashram, I clumsily helped chop vegetables  (fumbling around in pre-dawn darkness without glasses or coffee) and harvest turmeric (I was kindly handed big roots to break apart, easy stuff). I learned that I am not much of a cook or a farmer or a sweeper, but I learned that proficiency doesn’t really matter.  What matters is participating in an sacred dance of giving and receiving.  What matters, in the words of my host Jayesh-bhai, quoting his father Ishwar Patel, is being open to “Create heaven wherever you are.”  In a remote village, in a slum, in the moment.

Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Once long ago, I was on the edge of death. In the midst of it, I saw that behind the appearances of things there is a great white light of love and compassion.  I saw that we are all held and carried by this great holy force.  But it didn’t dawn on me that this cosmic force, this God force, comes to us in the smallest moments and actions, and that these actions affirm our interconnection.   And I glimpsed that while our problems are vast and complex, this force is very powerful.

As I left to come home to New York, Jayesh-bhai presented me with a beautiful scarf made from organic cotton and woven by women from the slum.  He said, “Tell them we are meant to live in a shared world.”

On the way to the airport, my friend Guri wondered if my trip to India would seem like a dream once I was home in New York.  This proved to be true, but not in the sense of being insubstantial.  Just the opposite.  I woke up this morning feeling stronger, healed in some deep way by what I experienced.  I once read that the Old English root of the word “heal” means to be brought to wholeness.  In his life and work, Gandhi showed us what it can look like to live in relation to a greater whole, in a shared world.  In India, I realized he didn’t invent this, he received it.   And he knew it came from a greater Truth that always prevail in the end.

 


17
Feb 14

India, Part I

Retreat Center in IndiaAs I write this, I am sitting in a pool of lamp light, watching snow fall, watching the pines and cars and the road outside fill up with white, contrasting the snowbound hush, the cocooned feel of the house, like a ship at night, with the sights and sounds and the sometimes spicy and delicate, sometimes acrid smoky smells and most of all the feeling of being in India. Contrast is a key to understanding–and not just in the senses but in the heart, in the shift from thinking in the mind to feeling in the heart. Think of what it is like to be outside in the cold and then to come in and be warm, how it can sting and burn at first. Think of what it is like to go off alone to an unknown place–now make it a place vast and complex and famous for beautiful and dangerous extremes. “Be safe,” everyone said, even in line at the gate at JFK and in the airport in New Delhi. “Be careful…Don’t drink the water.”

So off I went to India, completely divided, heart curious and mind braced for difficulties small and large. Off I went, repeating a mantra I once heard attributed to Dorothy Parker: “Adventure is just discomfort in retrospect.” I coaxed myself out the door picturing how delicious it would be to be home again two plus weeks later, cozy under a pile of blankets, reflecting on the grand adventure I had just had. As if I could go to India and not have it really touch me.

Still, my heart said “yes!” the moment I received the invitation to Gandhi 3.0, a retreat conceived of by a group of wonderful people including Nipun Mehta, founder of Service Space and fomenter of the gentle revolution of values called Gift Economy. The retreat was to take place at a beautiful retreat center near Gandhi’s ashram in Ahmedabad, and around the anniversary of his death. And after there was the promise of a pilgrimage. I emailed “yes!” to the invitation before my mind could come up with a list of good reasons why it was just too hard. Almost immediately there came this beguiling reply: “We’ll be here to welcome you home.”

This extraordinary welcome didn’t mean that I personally gave off some kind of a reincarnation vibration (although I admit I entertained this ego-licious notion for a second when it hit my in box). It turned out that Moved By Love, the extraordinary Indian group hosting the retreat (connected to the California-based Service Space, the way Aspen trees are out-croppings of the same interconnected root system) practiced welcoming and giving and creating a feeling of home as a way of service, a way serving God. And in their service, they convey the spirit of Gandhi, a spirit that is itself a distillation of deeply rooted traditional values that pervade India.

Even before the crowded Air India flight took off from JFK, a young Indian woman began to prepare me for what was to come. “Just so you know, people don’t mind touching like they do here,” she said. “They don’t have the same sense of personal space.” She meant they don’t mind crowding into the aisles, but she also foreshadowed something marvelous. Even before I landed in Ahmnebad, kindness kept appearing, a bottle of water, a mobile phone to call home, contact numbers just in case. At the retreat center, the welcome was so warm (including signs and a song!) that the organizers told me weeks later that were worried that they terrified me.

I went to India braced for darkness, but I wasn’t prepared for the light. It will take a few posts to convey my adventure in India. For now I will say that I travelled there like a child, ignorant, utterly dependent on others, so I got to take in the kinds of impressions children take in. At every turn I was met by kindness and generosity. I felt like I had all the wrong things, stupid purple sneakers because I was afraid of snakes, no towel, no cool Indian clothes (why does travel make us, or me, feel so vulnerable?)–and sandals appeared, a towel, a kurti. But it wasn’t the offering of things but the field of “maitri,” of loving friendliness, the feeling of being held and carried forward by friends with a noble, even sacred intention, that was so extraordinary.

After the warm welcome at what felt like a beautiful jungle compound, I was offered an Indian dinner and shown to a room that featured narrow little beds with hand-sewn coverings and a single blanket, slatted blinds without glass, a simple bathroom with a bucket and pitcher for a shower–somehow the austerity created a feeling of elegant simplicity, of living without wasting, mindful of the millions (billions?) without clean water. I went to sleep to sounds of a riotous Indian wedding somewhere far away, and awoke to the sound of chanted prayers and bells. I wish I could convey the warmth after cold, the smell of spice and wood-smoke in the air, the strange new bird cries, the light.

A gentle knock and smiling face, indicating breakfast and chai, and suddenly I realized how isolated I had been–ready for forays into the world, but equally ready to retreat into my enclosed little space. Suddenly, in surroundings where not much privacy is provided for, it became very clear that a choice exists, moment by moment. I could try to turn away from life, isolating at least mentally, or I could be open to receive. I would try to be open. I would see that receiving consciously is not unrelated to giving.

At breakfast, a man I would come to know by his equanimity and presence rather than through words said in Hindi (translated for me), “Only things that can open can blossom.”

To be continued…..


23
Jan 14

India, At Last

From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of being in India. I remember creeping around the living room on a bitterly cold day in Northern New York (no kidding about the cold, as I write this it is -23 degrees, F. in Watertown, -37 degrees factoring in wind chill). I remember knowing that was driving my very neat mother crazy with all this leaping and knocking sofa cushions off and so on, knowing my twin brother really wasn’t into my game, that he was just along for the ride letting me narrate an adventure in an imaginary India because it was too cold to go back outside.

I didn’t care what they thought. I was seeking something, padding through a gorgeous jungle going towards something I couldn’t name, my black panther consort by my side. Are there black panthers in India? Who knew? It was as if I was practicing something–practicing for something–that I somehow knew without knowing in any literal way. I was practicing another way to be in this world. In that grand and innocent way that children have, I knew I could be brave, free, and noble way that I didn’t actually know. For me, nobility didn’t reside in Middle Earth or English kings and queens and or any rugged American superhero but in India. And it had something to do with being in tune with the beautiful life around me, fully embodied, a regal little island unto myself, yet having the whole jungle including all the animals on your side.

Many decades later, I sometimes feel an echo of that childhood knowing. While meditating or walking or sometimes in nature I sometimes fleetingly sense there is a finer sensation to be sensed, an energy in us that belongs to a greater life. This energy is not separate from awareness, from knowing, from the light that surrounds us and is always seeking a way in. This is what I’ve learned since childhood: the light takes us as we are, broken and uncertain as we are. The light does not judge us as we judge ourselves. It seeks us, and it blesses everything it touches.

Right I am now actually packing to fly to India on Sunday, and I have to smile at how un-noble and un-princess-like I really am. There is seemingly no fear beneath me: I imagine losing my passport, my connecting flight, my companions, that I will have all the wrong clothes (gasp). Worst of all, I imagine being on retreat at the Gandhi ashram (where I’m bound, for “Gandhi 3.0″) and being revealed to be…myself. Worn down by jet lag and away from my cozy nest of habits, I will break down and show my wonderful Indian hosts and companions just how small and spoiled and un-noble I really am. Than I remember the light, and that just as we are we are invited to see and feel and be the truth.


20
Jan 14

Experiments in Truth

When the man who became Mahatma Gandhi was 12 years old, he saw a play that struck a chord deep inside, telling the story of someone who stood up for the truth even when all his loved ones, and he himself, suffered greatly as a result. The boy acted out the part countless times and wept. Many years and much experience and many experiments in truth later, this great soul realized “satyagraha,” truth force: consciously and with great conscience he showed the British and the world a way of saying and showing and being the truth. This way helped countless people, including Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we honor today.

When the man who became the Buddha was a boy he sat under a rose apple tree, watching his father and other men in the village plowing the fields, peaceful yet open, in solitude yet compassionate towards all beings. Many years later as he sat under a different tree patiently and courageously seeking awakening, the Buddha remembered that boyhood state. In the end, after the trials and trainings that became the great path, the Buddha showed how to return to this state, how to be islands of awareness, refuges unto themselves. This was not the end but the beginning, a platform for receiving a truth that is beyond thought, a truth that is a perception–and communion–with reality.

There is a kind of faith that is an act of inner opening to what is known in a dim way, deep down, without much sophisticated thought about it. This knowing comes to us as a gift, as grace, maybe even (often) in childhood or on a morning walk or when we are otherwise engaged in seemingly unimportant things. This knowing consists of knowing that there is more at stake in life than winning favor, than winning in any way. There is a force of truth.

“Sati,” the Pali word for mindfulness means to remember–to remember this act of returning and opening to a truth that cannot be thought. The spiritual path is a practice of remembering and forgetting–seeing that we always forget yet remembering to return. The spiritual path consists in the realization of a truth (“sacca” in Pali or “satya” in Sanskrit) is not just a verbal proposition or article of belief but seeing the nature of things as they are–as we are. To realize truth our whole being must slowly learn to open and be seen, to surrender to what is.

This takes a long,long time, yet we can start now, today, in a moment. Experiment with telling the truth when it feels useful and timely instead of just saying any old thing that sounds good or pleasing. Risk silence, yes, please, but also risk telling the truth in your own words and in the midst of your own messy situation because telling the truth to the best of your ability can establish a correspondence between our own inner being and a greater reality. Much more than an ethical principle, a dedication to telling the truth is way of remembering, a way of opening to a reality that is greater than anything we might think we desire.


14
Jan 14

Be an Island

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves….”  As he lay dying, the Buddha is said to have given this advice to his beloved disciple Ananda.  Many of us have heard or read a translation of this teaching that encourages us to be a “lamp” or a “light” unto ourselves–verifying the truth in the light of our own experience.  In recent years, however, a more ancient layer of the earliest teachings of the Buddha has come to light, leading some scholars to come down on the side of “island” not “lamp.”  (Apparently both were signified by the Pali word “dipa,” which probably isn’t any stranger than “knot” and “not” or “bear” and “bare” in English, when you think about it).

In either case, the Buddha did not mean be cut off, to be isolated and self-sufficient.  He didn’t mean be an island in the sense of that long-ago Simon and Garfunkel song about being a rock, an island…”and a rock feels no pain and an island never cries”.  Just the opposite.  The Buddha was probably speaking to people who were seeking the inviolate little islands of Atman. Using a word in use at that time, he gave it a new spin, he sought to convey how being an island could mean being something not cut off but open to the world inside and out, a peaceful, grounded state, non-grasping, non-afraid.

This is how I think of it.  During Christmas week, I saw an incomparable “Twelfth Night” on Broadway. Featuring the great Mark Rylance, Stephen Fry, and many other amazing actors from the Globe in England, candle-lit and Elizabethan in dress and every other possible detail, it was magic.  During the snowy ride home, I talked with my daughter about how the characters in the play travelled from the surface to the depths of their experience, from drama queen showy emotion to true love, from fake identities to true fates.  I asked Alex, who has a freshly minted masters degree in medieval and renaissance studies,  if Illyria was an island (it turns our to be a land on a Balkan coast).  Alex told me that it is taught that Shakespeare set many of his plays on islands or island-like faraway lands or in Pagan times or imaginary times because in his own time feeling and expressing grief showed a lack of faith (In fact, Olivia’s fool makes a joke about her grief in Twelfth Night), jibing that she must think her brother in hell or else she is a fool).

What if we became islands unto ourselves in the spirit of Shakespeare?  What if we allowed ourselves to inhabit our full human experience without judgement?  What if we allowed ourselves to stop and land right in the midst of the rushing stream of this internet-driven experience, giving our attention to our full experience, welcoming in all the orphans and outlaws and fools, judging nothing.

I think then we would see that attention itself is an extraordinary gift, a means of purification, transformation, and freedom.  Stopping and bringing attention is a way to land, to be grounded in the midst of it all, a way of being an island and refuge.