Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate Bodhi svāhāIt is a Sanskrit mantra known as the Heart Sutra and means "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond beyond; Hail the goer." Where did that come from? It feels like a lifetime ago that I learned it, and very little memory surrounds the experience I had. Two memories emerge as I poke around trying to find out why this has come out of the corridors of my mind: one, I am in a room with low light, along with maybe thirty or forty others, and we are in two concentric circles. The inside circle faces out, and the outer circle faces in, so that two people are facing each other. As we chant the mantra, we stop and look into the face of the person across from us as we say the words. Then there is the sound of a chime, and we move to the next person and repeat the mantra. We do this for a long time.
The other memory that I have is being in a huge gymnasium type room with hundreds of people, and we were Sufi dancing together, which is very simple movements, not really dancing at all. Then we began an exercise of throwing ourselves rather violently onto the floor as we shouted, "There is no God!" As we picked ourselves up off the floor, we chanted, "But God." I remember being very sore from doing this for hours. I don't know how I got myself involved in all this, but it must have made a strong impression (in more ways than one), since suddenly both of those long-forgotten memories have emerged.
It all started with a post I wrote a while back. One of my commenters (I don't remember who and I just spent a while trying to find it, with no luck) suggested that I start each day by thinking of five things I'm grateful for. It's an interesting exercise, as it forces me to look past my aches and pains and think about the positive aspects of my life. I know I am a fortunate person, but sometimes I focus on the negative and lose perspective. Everybody does it, but what amazes me is how powerful that simple little exercise really is. As I enumerate the five things, they expand and I think of many more things than just five. My mood goes up, and I feel a spring in my step.
As the days have gone by, little memories like that mantra have begun to pop up, like little spring flowers poking their heads out of the ground. And they are flowering in my dreams, my everyday reveries, coming to me at the most curious times. Walking to the bus, I heard a new bird song and recalled the first time last spring I heard that song. Oh, the white-crowned sparrow is back! His song sounds like he's saying, "me, me, pretty pretty me," followed by a trill. Maybe the sparrow's song scrubbed out an old section of my memory banks, who knows? Whatever, my spirits lifted and I couldn't help but feel grateful for the gift of that song. I noticed the myriad sounds around me.
At the present time, I have three books I'm reading all at once. One is a heavy tome, "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker; another is a Jodi Picoult book ("The Pact"); and the last one is an old science fiction story I first read long ago by Isaac Asimov about robots. It's on my iPad. Usually I don't have three going at the same time, but since I requested the electronic book weeks ago and it showed up unexpectedly, I only have two weeks to read it before it disappears. The Pinker book is fascinating, but it takes a bit of concentration and I only spend a short time with it every day. It's also a library book but I can renew it until I'm finished. Not so with electronic books; other people want to "borrow" it.
The Pinker book has also been responsible for me pondering the amazing organ that sits inside my cranium. Perhaps that's another reason that my memory corridors have been jostled. Having learned how our eyesight developed is interesting (I just finished the chapter called "The Mind's Eye"), and I keep finding myself looking at the world with what seems to be new eyes. What I have noticed lately is a desire to get out of my ingrained habits and spend some time each day just looking. It's not hard to do that, when everywhere I look some new flower has emerged from the soil.
To think that it all started with an attitude of gratitude. I know I will fall back into my old habits, because it's what I do, but this little exercise is always available to me, as long as I remember that what I focus on is not all there is. Not even a tiny little bit of all there is.