Thursday, April 28, 2016


Not my hair.
When things are not going so well (meaning, not going the way I want them to go), everything seems so complicated.  Yesterday, I was thinking about a couple of things that have not been going the way I want them to go and I got totally lost in the narrative about how I am correct and the hundred reasons why that is so.  There is a physical feeling to this state of being too - a tightness in my chest - and a kind of energy that is both thrilling (in a way) and exhausting.  It's hard work being so right all the time!  I had been in this state for a few days - my mind building and maintaining my case in preparation for its presentation to the Supreme Court.  Or, at least, the Supreme Court of My Own Head, which, lucky for me, had already decided in my favor.

I taught two yoga classes yesterday afternoon.  In the course of that, I was moving and breathing deeply.  Then I went to the Temple, where we were having a Fusatsu or Renewal of Vows ceremony.  It is a beautiful thing.  We atone for the ways that we have hurt ourselves and others, then the teacher gives a short talk about the precepts (the moral and ethical teachings of the Buddha) and we chant the Four Vows of a Bodhisattva.  Like I said, it is a beautiful ceremony.  For the first time, I was the doan, or instrumentalist.  It is not difficult - not like playing the piano or something - and there is a book that lists the cues but still, I had to be on my toes so I wouldn't miss anything.

Somewhere in the middle of chinging and gonging, an image came to my mind.  The image was of how the back of one's head of hair can become a big, messy snarl or knot (do people still use the term "snarl"?  It seems kind of old fashioned.)  Suddenly I saw this snarl of hair as being just like my state when I am deep in my narrative that sets myself up as right and others as wrong.  Everything is tight and twisted and it hurts.  As I followed the ceremony through the instruments that I was playing, I thought: this practice, this moving and breathing and sitting still, is like the comb that takes all these hairs that are knotted up and untangles them.  It doesn't get rid of the hair.  It just kind of sorts it out into a less painful orientation.

When I mentioned this image to one of my teachers, she agreed but cautioned that forcing the comb would just makes the snarl even worse.  And then she said, "The knot isn't so bad either."

The knot isn't so bad either.

Snarl, 2016.  Ink on paper.

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