Thursday, April 1, 2010
Towards a More Pagan Zen: Friendship
Today was a big day for this Mama: today was my son's first day of prepreschool. And here is a photo to commemorate our first moments in this momentous day... For my boy jumped eagerly into the thick of this new experience, while mama's nervous hands snapped a picture with her phone.
It's a perfect capture of that First Moment, because it speaks less about composition and clarity, and more about the color, noise and emotional chaos in that exact moment, and how we each related to these things that were happening, and to each other.
I've been thinking a lot lately that I might do well to write a bit of a treatise on my orientation to things... it never hurts to jot such things down, does it? Good for clarity, and especially for stepping forward when one is in a threshold as powerful as this. So to begin I thought I'd use the energy of this day-- and of that moment, in particular-- to share a little more of the inner life that I call A Sacred Friendship.
In contemporary Zen circles there's that infamous joke about the monk who asks the New York vendor for a hot dog. "Make me one with everything," he quips. And yet it's true that while we're munching away on the onion-and-mustard-smothered mystery-meat of life, it's often hard to see the hot dog for the condiments. So for myself, I keep a keen check on my overconsumption of all things "Buddhist", and opt instead to find a means to embrace direct experience for what it is, in my own language.
Much of this is informed by my pagan practice. For if anything about Buddhism here in the West annoys me, it's how darn cerebral it gets. Nothing is more ironic to me than the amount of thought we tend to pour into our exercises, and it seems to me we have a tendency to embrace the exotic nature of this Eastern-originating religion to excess. I did not take my vows to become Japanese; rather, I accepted them so that I might know something more of the truth of myself. In the contemporary pagan worldview, this truth is underscored by our interconnection-- a teaching known to folks who adapt indigenous traditions of American Indians north and south, to those who seek the traditions of their own European pre-Christian ancestry. I've had the privilege of learning such things from many teachers, and what a glory it is to find that under all the ketchup-and-mayo of varying spiritualities, oneness is the gift we find again and again, nestled in the bun of practice.
We are in relationship, always; even if alone, our bodies are relating to the room we're in, the objects around us, the thoughts that tumble around and around within us, and the things that have already happened-- or have yet to happen. There is no separating us from our emotions, our hormones, our electromagnetic impulses. We are in constant, continuous relationship.
But I don't like the word "relationship". Although it's descriptive enough for a cold concept, it's not deep enough. There's too much wiggle room; too much room even still for "I" dominance. "I'm in a relationship" is a vague phrase you might see from time to time, and in my mind I tend to subconsciously add, "...but I'm not sharing details!"
Therefore I chose the word "Friendship" to reflect a particular spirit of balance, of co-creating and togetherness. It's a softer word, a wider word, a kinder word. And it reflects much more accurately my orientation to things-- for as thick as thieves some friends may be, friends still argue; friends disagree, disrespect, disavow. For all the love and honey-gushy closeness the term implies, we all know that real friendship is challenging work.
And at its best, friendship does not exclude. There is much we will accept about a beloved friend, even if it means stretching a bit ourselves; especially if they have a differing political view or spiritual ideal, we bend where we must, for rare indeed is the occasion that we meet someone who is in total agreement with all of our own quirky ways of seeing the world.
How is my friendship with the environment around me? How is my friendship with my enemy? How is my friendship with my inner critic? These are the kinds of questions I ask myself as a way of reminding myself that indeed I am not solid, nor permanent, but I exist only as the quality of relationships that pass through me, each and every single one, large and miniscule.
What was that quality today? -- a high, happy vibration, a quaking instant of nervous fumbling by an anxious mom in a bright classroom with a happy, curious boy. The very best of friends.