Monday, July 2, 2012

The "Where Will Your Spirit Walk?" Koan

One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering -- Jane Austen, novelist (1775-1817) 

Some of the most painful days of my life were spent at the ocean or in my own home, including my childhood home as well as the place Richard and I lived for about five months after his return from Vietnam, and other places that I called home, the last of which is this place I have called home since October of 1984.  

Jane Austen's quote opened up something in me -- the realization that even when my perception was that I was experiencing nothing but suffering, it was in contrast to having previously experienced transcendent joy. 

Richard has never been far from my thoughts since we met as 17 year olds.  If we had had a traditional marriage and a long life together, today would have been our 44th anniversary.  

In this moment, though, I can feel something shifting in connection with the suffering I experienced in relationship to him.  The suffering is in the past. There is an unexpected opening for joy in its place in the present, born of that timeless transcendent joy I experienced so long ago when I first met Richard.    

My experience is that one does not love a person the less for having suffered in connection with that person's alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental illness. 

All suffering, nothing but suffering.  All joy, nothing but joy.  I can remember experiencing moments of both with Richard.  Without our joy, our suffering would have had no context. Without our suffering, our joy would have had no context.

In recent years, I have met others who have suffered in ways I can't even imagine, and yet they speak of the joy in their lives as well as the suffering.

The film clip ends in the place in my living room where I practice the asanas.  For me, yoga is where joy and suffering meet in a place of love. 

Did you hear birds outside, Oboe's voice, the sound of the electric fan in the kitchen, and the sound of the clock ticking?  It wasn't until the third time I watched the clip, that saw I Oboe!

Now I am reminded of an old post of mine, "Like a rolling koan," and William Blake came to mind:

"Man was made for joy and woe
Then when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine
A clothing for the soul to bind."
(William Blake)

and this, which was playing on the radio in my VW in July of 1968:

We were married on a Tuesday afternoon, a few minutes walk from this section of Miramar Beach, California.  Half of Richard's ashes were scattered by his brother not far from this place where we met as 17 year olds:

Photo credit:  Ana Preza

As Leonard Cohen observed, many loved before us.  Many will love after us.  Love is a story that keeps unfolding through the generations.

For my 63rd birthday in October, I'm looking into a visit at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the place where Georgia O'Keeffe first stayed for a month in 1934 when she was 47 years old.  She moved to New Mexico when she was 62 years old.  That was in 1949, the year I was born.  She lived in New Mexico for 37 years until her death at 98 years old.

Georgia O'Keeffe said, "When I think of death, I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore ... unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I'm gone."

Where will your spirit walk?

"... what is your Original Face?" (Eno, Sixth Patriarch of Zen)

(Today I can't seem to figure out how to get the fonts and font sizes to match.  Perseverance furthers.)


The Solitary Walker said...

A beautiful and profound post, am. The interconnectedness and mutual dependence of joy and suffering.

Anonymous said...

So much of this post resonates with me, am. The music and the poetry of a time.

Sabine said...

so very moving, thank you for sharing these thoughts.

bev said...

Somehow I missed this post, am. Yes, joy and suffering seem very connected. Do you know f you will be going to Ghost Ranch in October? I hope you will.

am said...

bev -- Still don't know for sure if I will be traveling to New Mexico in October. There is a strong pull toward Yosemite as well as the awareness that October is often the most beautiful month to stay right here in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe late October will work for Ghost Ranch. Thank you for the encouragement.

bev said...

Any of those choices will probably be the right one for this year. This autumn, I had planned on spending time along the PNW coast, but Larry has been reading about the Anasazi and other peoples of the Colorado Plateau, so I asked if he would like it if I picked him up and we went to Chaco Canyon and then into the Cedar Mesa region of southeast Utah. After spending several weeks there with Sage and Sabrina in autumn 2010, I decided to return if ever I found a good hiking partner. if all goes well, that is now my plan. Autumn should be beautiful in New Mexico and Utah, especially late October when the cottonwoods along the rivers will probably be a golden blaze. I wish you a good autumn wherever you decide to be.

am said...

Thank you so much, bev. I wish the same for you and Larry.