I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Contemplating religion


I found this gorgeous picture on Facebook's Seeing Bellingham group. I don't remember the person who took it, but I was simply amazed to see "Grace," our resident mysterious statue, along with a rainbow that the photographer captured as well. Grace is the name of this interesting sculpture (or whatever it is) that appeared on this rock slag a few years ago. It then disappeared as suddenly as it had turned up, and recently has returned, slightly different, but still very much appreciated by all passersby at Boulevard Park in Bellingham Bay.

It was easy for me to recognize what Grace is doing, since I took Bikram Yoga years ago when this asana (posture) was incorporated into the practice. From standing on two feet, you carefully take one foot into your hand and begin to pull it up while stretching the other hand forward. I was never able to get to this incredible stretch, but it was the attempt that was important, not reaching the maximum. Now I practice Iyengar Yoga, which doesn't have any such postures in its beginning levels, any that I am capable of doing, anyway. I've tried this a few times, but these days it's too advanced for my ancient bones. 

All forms of yoga practiced these days in the US have some balancing postures, which help with maintaining a level of equilibrium that is important in everyday life. I practice tree pose and a few others that are much easier that what Grace is performing, and they contribute a great deal to my ability to keep up the level of fitness that I need for happiness. It occurred to me in my Zoom class yesterday to wonder where all those strange Sanskrit names come from. All forms of yoga seem to use them, and I learned that they come from India, mostly, based in Hindu philosophy.  In a cursory research into it all, I discovered that many of the concepts I have incorporated into my life come from religions I know nothing about, such as Islam and Hinduism. In yoga class, we say "namaste," which is a Sanskrit word:

If you take a yoga class in the U.S., the teacher will most likely say namaste at the end of the practice. It's a Sanskrit phrase that means "I bow to you." You place hands together at the heart, close your eyes and bow.

That caused me to wonder about Buddhism, my most recent interest, and I learned that it is a major form of religion, among others. It's interesting that it never occurred to me to wonder what that symbol inside my yoga studio is, where it comes from, and I learned that it represents Hinduism. What a surprise!

World religions is a category used in the study of religion to demarcate the five—and in some cases more—largest and most internationally widespread religious movements. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are always included in the list, being known as the "Big Five."

 Yesterday I watched that wonderful 1982 movie, "Gandhi," which I have seen many times over the years and was once again moved by Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi. I had forgotten that he was eventually assassinated for trying to bring peace between Hindus and Muslims, which are both major religions in India. There was a line he spoke while walking with his followers, which struck deeply: that even though violence and ignorance can prevail for a time, love and truth will always win out in the end. It was something I needed to hear when contemplating the discord in the world today. Although I will probably not be around to see it, I believe in the truth of his words. 

I think the world going through this Covid pandemic will change everything in ways we cannot even imagine, not now while we are living through it, but the upheaval in the world is unmistakable and increasing. As I have learned through living one day at a time, there is no need for despair, and that there is something I can do to help us reach a better place: work on myself. It's all I have power over, and it's possible that it's the one drop in the bucket that will cause the change we need. Finding serenity in my everyday activities is an essential part of bringing it about. So, I will continue to spend some time every morning in meditation, because it makes me feel better and gives me perspective as well. I will continue my blog posts (like this one) and continue to grow in love and light for as long as I can.

After having injured myself again last week while trying to exercise, I am gradually recovering. Today when I woke to fix myself some tea, I realized that the constant pain in my right sacrum has lessened until I think I can deal with this much discomfort without any problem. And then as I walked around a bit more, I realized the truth that nothing stays the same, everything is constantly changing and that can be a good thing as well. 

As some of you might remember, last week I wrote about the passing of Thich Nhat Hahn and put a quote from the New York Times that might have puzzled some, since he said that he wasn't born and didn't die. I found another quote by him that might make it more clear. A stupa, by the way, is a shrine.

I have a disciple in Vietnam who wants to build a stupa for my ashes when I die. He and others want to include a plaque with the words “Here lies my beloved teacher.” I told them not to waste the temple land. “Do not put me in a small pot and put me in there!” I said. “I don’t want to continue like that. It would be better to scatter the ashes outside to help the trees to grow. I suggested that, if they still insist on building a stupa, they have the plaque say, “I am not in here.” But in case people don’t get it, they could add a second plaque, “I am not out there either.” If people still don’t understand, then you can write on the third and last plaque, “I may be found in your way of breathing and walking.” —Thich Nhat Hahn

This quote illuminates the Buddhist Five Remembrances and reminds me that the only thing that will last after I'm gone are my actions. I don't know how long after I die that these blog posts will still remain online, but they will probably be there longer than my body will. Who knows? I know that I am feeling content and happy to be alive and breathing today, and that I am ready for another day ahead. I hope that you will have a wonderful week until we meet again. Be well, my dear virtual family.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I hope you are feeling better and you have a wonderful week also!

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
It is early Monday morning here. I always look forward to these posts of yours - they so often give me things to think about as my new week dawns.
I am also glad that your pain is lessening. Be well dear friend.

John's Island said...

My rating for Eye on the Edge was high when I first found you nearly a decade ago. Ever since my rating just continues to go higher and higher. Your recent trend to cover the spiritual aspects of aging is, to me, especially commendable. Thank you for your weekly posts and keep up the good work. John

Linda Reeder said...

"I am in your way of breathing and walking". Yes, I like that quote better.
We live on in the minds and memories of those we leave behind.

It's a drippy, gray day here today. but I'm fine with that. We were at Safeway this morning before 9:00 to get our weekly supply of groceries. With everything put away I
am spending a little time sitting at my computer before I launch into my long session of PT. I'll monitor each stretch or action to make sure it is not hurting me. Each day I feel a slight improvement. Just keep moving on.

Marie Smith said...

I have been reading a book on sickness and dying and it’s made me do some thinking about my own feelings on the subject, which have developed over the years. Coming to grips with the inevitable is a huge part of living. It makes living more meaningful.

Have a great week, Jan.

Rian said...

"... love and peace will always win out in the end." I believe this also.
Have a wonderful peaceful Sunday, DJan!

Linda Myers said...

Physical improvement is frustratingly slow!

Arkansas Patti said...

I have no choice but to believe that love and peace will win out. The alternative is unbearable.
I am so happy that you are feeling better. Keep it going.

Red said...

It saddens me that the great religions cannot find peace with each other. They claim to preach the same message but they dislike each other and at times and places that dislike is intense.

Galen Pearl said...

Oh my gosh, I LOVE those plaques! My daughter says that when I die she is going to put on my headstone "She was never bored!" Ha! I'm going to be cremated, though, and hopefully spread in the forest near my cabin. But I won't be there!!

Betsy said...

I hope you continue to improve physically and that the pain and discomfort is soon completely gone. I pray for peace to be in the world, but there is so much anger and violence it does make me wonder if anything will ever change. I can only do my part in sharing the love of the Lord with all who will listen.

Anvilcloud said...

We have never been bigmovie-goers, it I do remember going to that one. The theatre was packed
Being peacefully reconciled to being no more is far superior to believing that your only hope in life is living forever afterward.

gigi-hawaii said...

A totally different way of looking at life and death! Thank you!

Rita said...

Dagan and Leah know I want to be cremated and don't want a funeral. Dagan told me once he thought he should have my ashes made into a diamond when he found out that can actually be done because I just love that country song Old Chunk of Coal--LOL! What a hoot! I don't care because I won't be there and told him to save his money but it makes me smile every time I think of it. :)

Rita said...

I don't know if the link will work but you can copy and paste it. :)

William Kendall said...

I don't understand religions of any stripe, and i know I'm not meant to.

But there are things and places I do hold sacred and hallowed.

One of them got desecrated this weekend.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, thank you, once again, for sharing with us your contemplation of living in the present. Your philosophy of life is so rich and so helpful, I believe, to all of us who read your sunday postings.

With regard to what Gandhi said, it reminded me of the John Lewis quote that goes something like this: The arc of history is long but it always bends toward justice.

It seems to me that in Oneness, we all live and breathe and have our being. And our actions and words, as you say here and have said in the past, create the fullness of the Holy Oneness of All Creation. Peace.