Sunday, June 7, 2009

Steeping In the Dharma

Font sizeI have been munching on lots of  little Dharma tidbits here on the lovely Quadra Island.  As I did my qi gong on the grass overlooking the ocean this morning I was reminded of how infrequently I live in the depth of the moment, how soul refreshing it is to notice the little weeds, to feel the sun and the breeze, to settle in to the movements of the body.  How when nothing needs to be done it is easier to just be.  The slowing down of time and life.  And where are we going in such a hurry anyway?

It is interesting on the island that after a minute or two of conversation with someone there comes the inevitable, "you're not from the island," or "where are you from?  Mostly it's just natural human curiosity but it makes me think about the "self" or "little self" as it is sometimes referred to in Buddhism.  How quickly we establish the boundaries between self and others in so many ways.  Just another way of creating separation.  None of it done with malice but one of those unconscious ways we build our little shell: a habit, a way to create some order, a protection, a defense, but always inevitably an unconscious strengthening of the "fortress me".

And there have also been lovely moments of connection, chatting with artists about their process.   John Schevers, who does amazing Vietnamese style lacquer work and enormous textured mixed media was my favourite stop on the artist's studio tour.  I loved the experimental and exploratory quality of his work.  He seemed to be always reaching and exploring his medium.  A builder too, he uses concrete and sand and horsetails, even toilet paper in his pieces!  We were treated to a searingly hot glass blowing demo at the "I Blew It Studio" of Cherie Hemmingson, stopped by guitar maker, Richard Peilou's studio and got the personal guided tour of all the steps and woods and hand made tools he uses to create a the labour intensive hand made guitar.

And I was reminded that the Dharma is everywhere as I lay on the lawn reading  the introduction in a drawing book I brought along.  Listen.  Does this sound like the Dharma to you?  "Whatever your motive, try not to be impatient.  Impatience has probably been a bigger stumbling block in the way of real ability than anything else.  Doing anything well, I'm sure, means hurdling obstacles of one kind or another most of the way to the goal.  Skill is the ablility to overcome obstacles, the first of which is usually lack of knowledge about the thing we wish to do.  It is the same in anything we attempt.  Skill is a result of trying again and again, applying our ability and proving our knowledge as we gain it.  Let us get used to throwing away the unsuccessful effort and doing the job over.  Let us consider obstacles as something  to be expected in any endeavor; then they won't seem quite so insurmountable or so defeating."  Sounds like good advice for just about anything.

In this paragraph Andrew Loomis has addressed the value of patience (one of the 10 perfections in Buddhism), of studying (and the Dharma is no different) how else will we understand the nature of the truth and learn to work with our confusion and greed and anger?  And of course good old persistence because it takes a long time to change our habitual tendencies, maybe a lifetime, maybe several lifetimes!  And the part I love is that if we know there are obstacles (as in, there is suffering) we will not be surprised or defeated.  So often people say, "oh Buddhism, it's so negative, it's always droning on about suffering."  But the fact is that suffering exists.  Do you know anyone who has not experienced suffering of some sort?  To think otherwise is to set yourself up for disappointment.  You can put on your rose tinted glasses, stick your fingers in your ears and sing the la la song but it won't change this.  

And the discovery that I make quite often is that I hear the Dharma everywhere.  So even in a book called "Drawing The Head and Hands" there is the Dharma all dressed up as drawing instructions.  The world is steeping in Dharma.  Yes, that's it, the Dharma is like a giant tea bag gently infusing the world with it's wonderful colour and flavour, creating something warm and nourishing.  Can I offer you a cuppa?

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