Sunday, February 8, 2009

Asking For Help

Jizo (pictured here) the Bodhisattva of women, children and travelers  seems good company for a writing on "asking for help".  This mixed media piece incorporates several image transfer techniques with rusty orange and green acrylics.

I love this quote by Gary Snyder: "If you ask for help it comes, But not in any way you'd ever know."  It reminds me of the old joke about a guy who is caught in a flood.  First a row boat comes to save him and he declines saying God is going to save him.  Then he declines a power boat and a helicopter.  When he gets to heaven.  He says, " God, I thought you were going to save me."  God replies,"I sent you 2 boats and a helicopter, what did you want me to do?"

I can remember my Zen teacher giving talks  on "asking for help".  It always intrigued people and we were always left scratching our heads a little, asking, "how do I know when I get the answer?"  That is the tricky part, the part that takes practice.

It was a wonderful idea for most of us, new to a daily practice, that when we were really stumped, that we could sit down quietly and ask for help.  Ask, what is it good to do here?  And then listen.  Thing is, a lot of us aren't used to listening, to just sitting with a question in a state of openness.  It takes practice. ..... and faith.   

First there is wandering mind, and then the answering mind that thinks it knows everything.  The ability to just be still and open takes practice.  First of all it seemed like my mind always knew too much, too soon.  It didn't know how to be quiet and open.

And then there is the faith, the faith that the answer will come and faith in our ability to recognize it as an authentic answer.  The mind wants to get in there.... Maybe it's just me thinking, maybe it's not the real answer.  "Ah the doubting mind is hell."  Who said that?  And yet it is good to be careful, to be aware and consider what is going on, to walk the razors edge between care and doubt. 

What I have found is that it's a skill that like any other skill develops over time.   I find that the answer doesn't necessarily come right when I ask.  It might come when I'm having a shower or sitting in meditation another day.  These are two of the most likely receiving stations for me.  And how do I recognize the answer?  It is a sensing, a feeling, an intuitive way of knowing that evolves from our practice, from our developing awareness.

I find it is a helpful way to deal with difficult or important questions in my life.  ....Or things that completely baffle me.  It is comforting to know that I have help that I can access.  My sense of it is that these answers come from inside and outside, in an "everything is connected" kind of way.  And I love to think about the sense of mystery that is present in this world.  How much there is that we really don't know.  We are swimming in a sea of mystery and help is always nearby.  All we have to do is ask and listen.  And watch for helicopters.

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