Stories/Parables/Koans: The Wound (part 2)

Today’s Parable comes from an “an African-American employee of [advertising agency] Wieden + Kennedy.” A more complete background behind these words can be found Here.

 

 

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“What was it like
when you realized your brothers were
jealous and what they planned to do?”

“I felt like a lion with a chain around
its neck. Not degraded by the chain, and
not complaining, but just waiting for my
power to be recognized.

“How about down in the well, and in
prison? How was it then?”

“Like the moon when it’s getting
smaller, yet knowing the fullness to
come. Like a seed pearl ground in the
mortar for medicine, that knows it will
now be the light of the human eye.

Like a wheat grain that breaks open in
the ground, then grows, then gets
harvested, then crushed in the mill for
flour, then baked, then crushed again
between teeth to become a person’s
deepest understanding.
Lost in Love, like songs the planters
sing the night after they sow the seed.”

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Stories/Koans/Parables: Taken For A Ride

A woman was sitting beside the road when a horse suddenly came galloping around the corner.

608-03470985 © Masterfile Royalty-Free Model Release: No Property Release: No A black and white version of a vintage style line drawing of a cowboy

It was going so fast it seemed as though the man riding the horse had somewhere important to go. As the horse passed by, the woman stood and shouted “Where are you going?” The man on the horse replied: “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”

Ba-dum-dum

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What do you think is happening here?

There are three characters in this story: the woman, the man and the horse. The horse represents the energy of the world, our habits, and the ongoing succession of events that seemingly move us along through life. The man riding the horse is “I” or “Me,” the personality that is a result of innumerable causes and conditions. The woman represents “Me” in practice — the observer of events and the one who steadily asks “what is going on here?”

With which of these three characters do you most relate?

When we are caught up in the business of life then we’re sticking to the script of doing and becoming. We go to school, get a job, get a family, and work until we die. We push away our restlessness with periodic pleasures, mindless activities and stale religious ideologies.

When we are more settled in our identity, we have affirmed the body-mind as the limits of our self. In this place, we not only have a job but a career that we use to define us. Our family is used as an outward reflection of internal hopes and dreams. Image and branding means a lot in this place –we are actively playing our role. It is important to note that although it seems like we have taken control of life (the horse) we’re still just as much at its mercy as ever. A sudden accident or change in economic conditions can completely rearrange our role and cause us to question the previously infallible identity we’ve created.

When we spend time on the side of the road, in meditation or contemplative practice, we begin questioning the entire experience altogether. We begin to see that Life is happening; that our seemingly solid identity (“Me”) is actually fluid and completely dependent upon causes and conditions. We are still enough to notice the movement and begin to question “who is moving?” “where are we going?” “what the hell is happening here?”

Each character in this story plays an important part in the process of awakening. One role is not more important than another and they each depend on lessons learned from the others for growth. No matter how far along the road we go, we can never leave the energy of our habits, or the identity of our bodies, or the arising of conscious understanding. The tenacity with which we pursue each role, however, determines our relative state of peace.

asian-woman-meditate-on-busy-street

“Everybody wants peace but nobody wants to chill”

Finally, take note of how the woman on the side of the road was easily drawn out of her own concerns. This is a significant aspect of our practice: learning to be still in the midst of activity. She was off the horse and out of the game, but as soon as something interesting happened she was ready to get back in. This happens all the time and can be most easily noticed while meditating or engaged in some similar activity. The important lesson to learn from this aspect of the story is this: Whenever you find yourself removed from your place of stillness, simply bring yourself back. So when the horse comes around the corner — your boss gives you extra work on Friday afternoon, your lover cries bloody murder because you’re late for dinner that night, your kids have attitudes that do not respond to your efforts of adjusting — and you get up to see what’s going on — curse your boss out under your breath and secretly plot to find another job, start an argument with your lover because she don’t know the shit you just put up with at work, yell at your kids and send them crying to their rooms, — go back to your spot on the side of the road and start over again.

What about you? What lessons can you take away from this story?

K

Stories/Koans/Parables: Badu Zen

 

Allow me to remix a story from the “Another Round Podcast with Heben and Tracy.”

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Badu Zen

Badu Zen

A successful writer was visiting a good friend’s home in Los Angels when her friend says: “Badu just text me, do you want to go hang with Badu?” Of course she wants to go, so they arrive to the spot and it’s Too Short and Erykah Badu in a room with servers passing out chicken fingers and bourbon.

Her first thought was “Is this real?!” Her second thought, “This is what my heaven looks like.”

Too Short. Erykah. Chicken fingers. And bourbon.

So they’re hanging out and she decides to tap the wisdom of the room. She approaches Ms. Badu and says:

“Erykah I need life advice. People have been dying in my life. Things have been crazy. I’m at a place that I, you know, I’m grateful to be in but it’s very new to me.”

Erykah maybe took a sip of bourbon, maybe dipped her chicken finger in some delicious sauce, then she says:

“Just keep your altar updated.” 

The writer was taken aback. Erykah continued:

“So anything you don’t want in your life just put it on your altar, and anything you do want in your life put it on your altar.”

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Aha!

A modern day Koan featuring a contemporary Zen master – Erykah Badu. I love the levels to this story, looking at it from a Parable/Koan point of view: The happenstance of being in the right place at the right time, being surrounded by good things but still feeling the anxiety and pressure of life weighing you down, the will and courage to be personal in the moment and take advantage of the opportunity in front of her. But most impressive was the actual advice she received, “Just keep your altar updated.” This may come across as a little passive because of how much importance we place on taking action in this society. But her words speak to the immeasurable power of our intention and the forces that actually make things happen in the world.

Something important we receive from meditation practice is a deep understanding of how much happens without “me” doing anything. Sitting quietly, we notice the body’s activity, the activity of the room, the activity of the world around us. At some point we realize everything is happening, but no one (especially myself) is making it happen.

"Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself." -- some other Zen Master

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” — some other Zen Master

 

It is often more necessary for us to get out of the way than it is to initiate some activity or ritual to meet the happenings of life. People will die around us, things will get crazy, we will find ourselves in new places — grateful but unsure. The woman in this story may have been looking for something like a prescription, but what she received instead was much less invasive: “Don’t worry about the happenings, keep your altar updated.”

Stay focused on your wishes and let Life take care of the conditions. Lay your burdens down and let Life round them out. Besides, as we learned in last week’s story, we never know what blessing will end up being a curse and what pain will end in healing. Keep your altar updated, you’ll be alright.

K

 

*Photo Credit #1 “Baduism” by tonderaiarts — https://www.pinterest.com/pin/526850856380686653/
*Photo Credit #2 https://elegantlychic.wordpress.com/category/music-2/