The messaging in this week’s verse does not hold back, proclaiming loud and clear, do you want to be a disciple of death or of life…
Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant,
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
It’s an important question. Not just for those on a wisdom path. It’s a question the entire world would do well to consider.
I was at a meditation retreat a zillion years ago and the practice was simple and shocking. Contemplate your death. It’s a great practice. It puts everything into perspective.
Is it Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan who says we should live with the awareness that death is sitting on our left shoulder. I might not have the exact words or correct source, but the teaching is vast and deep. Death accompanies us through every moment of life. Easy to forget as we trudge through the hours. But remembering is such a gift. Steadfast contemplation of death is the surest way to become a disciple of life…..
This week’s class weaves the wisdom of the above verse with contemplation of the goddess Saraswati. For visitors to this blog unfamiliar with this sublime deity field, let me simply say, Saraswati lives inside of us as the river of insight and inspiration. My favorite epithet for “her” is, She Who Lives on the Tongues of Poets.
Click here to read more about Saraswati.
LAKSMI DHUMAVATI MANTRAS
Here are the Mary Oliver poems I read in this week’s dharma talk. These are from her collection, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems. [With apologies to MO for my inability to tweak the program here so it keeps the subtleties of her formatting.]
Percy Wakes Me (Fourteen)
Percy wakes me and I am not ready.
He has slept all night under the covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk, then breakfast.
So I hasten up. He is sitting on the kitchen counter
where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say. How clever, if you
to wake me.
He thought he would hear a lecture and deeply
his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals; he has done something
that he needed
and now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears, I turn him over
and touch him everywhere. He is
wild with the okayness of it. Then we walk, then
he has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not, how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I ever be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning.
Let laughter come to you now and again, that
The impulse to leap off the cliff, when the
body falsely imagines it might fly, may be
restrained by reason, also by modesty. Of the
two possibilities, take your choice, and live.
Refuse all cooperation with the heart’s death.
I have been risky in my endeavors,
I have been steadfast in my loves;
Oh Lord, consider these when you judge me.
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty
of lives and whole towns destroyed or about
to be. We are not wise, and not very often
kind. And much can never be redeemed.
Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this
is its way of fighting back, that sometimes
something happens better than all the riches
or power in the world. It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant
when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the
case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid
of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.