Monday, 29 September 2014

Responsibility

The Ho’oponopono prayer, which you can see cycling continually at the foot of this blog, is an encapsulation of Christian attitude: “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.”

It’s a traditional Hawaiian mantra that Dr Hew Len has taught people about. He describes its use as being for “cleaning”. He says any circumstance into which you introduce it as an intention is de-toxed by it. If you make it your mantra – your mind’s focus – it de-toxes your life. That makes sense, because it is in a nutshell the way Jesus taught us to think and behave. Every single thing we say or do should be able to be categorized under one of its four headings – I love you; I’m sorry; please forgive me; thank you.

It intrigues me that “I’m sorry” and “please forgive me” are two separate clauses in it, not one. I’d have said they were the same, but when I think about it I can see they’re not.

Dr Hew Len recommends we pick up the practice of “cleaning” any person, place or event that comes our way by bringing the light of this mantra to shine upon it. He makes the interesting observation that we are responsible for everyone and everything that comes our way.

By that, he doesn’t mean “everything that happens to you is your fault”. People make this error of thinking about the whole idea of karma – they think it’s a kind of blame system: “You got yourself into this, right then; you get yourself out of it” or “You made your bed, now you’ve got to lie on it. Ha ha.”

But that isn’t it. Karma is what Dr Hew Len says – you are responsible for whatever comes into your life. That is to say, you respond to anything you notice or encounter, and the correct way to respond is your choice of “I love you; I’m sorry; please forgive me; thank you” – or a bumper pack of all four. This is good medicine, good karma, because it ensures that you will get the best out of everyone and everything you come across. Furthermore the aura or radiance of your thoughts, your attitude, will affect whatever/whoever you meet; and if what it meets in you is the Ho’oponopono prayer incarnate, you wil bring healing and peace wherever you go, and life will lighten up around you. That’s what he means by cleaning it. 

One of the areas of life where this responsibility sometimes feels very serious to me, is in choosing where to buy my food. I’m sure you must know that humanity has been very careless, corrupt and cruel in its agricultural practices. We have pushed indigenous peoples off their land, degraded the health of the earth, spoilt the fields and the oceans, wiped out the forests, almost killed off the pollinating insects and imprisoned livestock animals in environments that make concentration camps look like holiday parks. That’s not  ‘I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, or thank you”, is it?

So, though I often get it wrong and take my eye of the ball and just act in total selfishness, I do try to put some work into exercising my responsibility and making loving choices when it comes to sourcing my food.

I have tried being vegan, and that really didn’t work out for me. For one and another reason, I’ve come to accept that we are inescapably part of the cycle of birth and death in our interactions, and what matters is not whether something lives of dies (including me) but the quality of attitude with which it is welcomed and loved in its earth-time.

So, when I source eggs or meat or fish, I do my best to search out food that has not been blitzed with organo-phosphates or anti-biotics, that I can eat without jeopardizing my health, and that has enjoyed a reasonable degree of happiness, freedom and natural life while it was running around on earth as an animal. I was going to say “as a living being”, but I think the meat or egg is still a living being – it’s just transitioning; the living being it’s about to become is me. I will reap what I sow. It matters.

With this in mind, I discovered with great joy a source of meat and eggs in the UK to be really proud of – Eversfield Farm. Take your time to poke around that website and check out what they’re doing. That the lambs are allowed to stay with their mothers and wean naturally onto grass. That the animals are not only organically reared and grass-fed, but are pasture-fed; which means that flowers and herbs have gone into their bodies as well as grass. That the pigs (rescued from slaughter at the closure of a nearby farm) are a flock, the boar with his sows, free-ranging and with shelter from the sun. That the hens are organically fed and range free in the pastures. That they sell chicken as well as eggs – which presumably means the male birds get a chance to live, to become chicken to eat, rather than being selected on a conveyor belt and chucked down a chute into a gas chamber on Day 1 of their lives because they aren’t female and therefore won’t lay eggs. And that the meat animals are taken to a nearby local abattoir for slaughter, reducing to a minimum the stress on the animal when its time comes to die.

Eversfield Farm has worked under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to re-establish miles of hedgerows – sanctuary for wildlife of all kinds. The old, basic rye-grass fields have been ploughed up and re-seeded with herb-rich pasture.

I tell you, that place is Good News – it’s a Ho’oponopono place, and I thank God for it. They sell meat all round the UK by mail order, which is a precious support in helping me live my life responsibly. Hooray for Eversfield Farm! Thank you, Eversfield; I love you – yes, I do.



Eyes

I have these really hooded eyes. My father’s were the same. I quite like them actually. Our new next door neighbours include two Sharpeis, and we definitely have something in common. Folds of skin.

When I go to the optician for my regular check, I have the Optimap scan done, where they photograph the inside of your eye. As well as my eyes being hooded, they have mega-long eyelashes (once black, now faded), so on the Optimap pics there’s always a ring of sharp spikes!

This last time I went, the optician spotted a tiny ‘event’ – a little bleed, not a carnival or a circus or anything – on the outer field of my retina when she inspected the photos, so there ensued a lot of peering into an eye dilated by drops etc.

And it’s amusing because the skin round my eyes has to be kind of held aside – like when the curtains go up at a theatre so you can see the play.

I said to the optician, “I’m sorry my eyes are so hard to get at – I think they must be a cosmetic surgeon’s dream!”

To which she replied: “You can get them done on the NHS if it gets bad enough.”

Hmm.

You know, I have never been renowned for my tact and diplomacy, but even I can tell that’s not the right thing to say to a lady about her eyes.

“Thank you,” I said. “I’ll bear that in mind.”


Our conversation slid gracefully into the mud at that point. What I mean is, it stopped.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Inverted

Well, this may sound like stating the obvious to you, but it came as a new thought to me – indeed, most thoughts do, as I grow older and more forgetful!

The Co-op where they sell good bread and tinned fish and the best fresh orange juice and other things I wanted, is the far side of the valley. Down a steep hill, then up a steep hill, and the same coming home of course.

And it dawned on me, coming home, walking over a valley is exactly the same as walking over a mountain. A valley is an upside down mountain.

I don’t think I ever though of that before.

And I think, if what lay between me and the Co-op was a mountain instead of a valley, I’d find it too daunting to cross. I’d think it was way too difficult – “I’m not going to the Co-op! I mean, cripes! You have to cross a mountain!”

Whereas crossing a valley feels easy. But in reality is exactly the same.


I feel sure there are some life lessons in there somewhere . . .


Friday, 5 September 2014

Wabibito

Ah, those perspicacious Japanese! They always have a word for it; in this case, wabibito – someone who personifies the characteristics of wabi-sabi.


Wabi originally meant the loneliness of being solitary in nature, a kind of sadness, melancholy.

Sabi, which can be translated simply ‘rust’, originally meant thin, cold, withered, weathered.

Over time their meanings developed new connotations, wabi coming to describe something with qualities of freshness, quietness and restraint, mortality, something natural and simple, unaffected, with a plain and understated elegance. Sabi came to describe the beauty of ageing – the patina of tools much used, the silvering of old wood, the serenity of old age, objects carefully repaired where they are broken, things flawed, asymetrical, unconventional or anomalous.

Wabi-sabi evolved from the Japanese form of Buddhism – Zen – and therefore inherently assumes (philosophically) impermanence, transience, nothingness, seeing beauty in that.

Zen, though it is a form of Buddhism, also has roots in (Chinese) Taoism, and the resonance is very clear.

The wabibito is an ordinary person, but embodies characteristics Lao Tsu identifies as the qualities of the Sage, in the Tao. Indeed, the Tao is like an exposition of wabi-sabi – or maybe wabi-sabi is the lifestyle expression of the Tao.

A concept of the Tao is wu-wei, sometimes called ‘the art of non-doing’.  The Tao speaks of the way of heaven as a state without artifice, entirely natural. Wu-wei is that kind of effectiveness achieved by being so aligned with the flow of life and grace, so unobtrusive, that things seem to come about, come together, of themselves, apparently effortlessly. And this is not laissez-faire indifference; it is mastery.
Tao Ch 37 The Tao does nothing yet leaves nothing undone.
Tao Ch 48 – Do nothing and there is nothing left undone.

Tao Ch 17 (Derek Lin’s translation) –
Task accomplished, matter settled

The people all say, "We did it naturally"

This is about ultimate effectiveness, what Jesus was talking about when he said, “I do nothing but what I see the Father do” (John 5:19).

So a wabibito embodies all these characteristics. To say the wabibito ‘puts them into practice’ whould miss the point, because that implies a system, an artifice, something structured and deliberate. But the way of the wabibito is so aligned upon life and grace that s/he just can’t help being and doing the way of life. It arises organically and naturally from the core of the person’s being. It is who they are.
Thus the wabibito merges with the I AM THAT I AM in whose image they live. And this is what is meant by the water Jesus gives us (Holy Spirit) as a well at the centre of our being, springing up to eternal life (John 4:14) Unsurprisingly, when in the 7th century, some Chinese Taoists embraced the Christian faith, they really liked John’s gospel!

WABIBITO
  • Simple
  • Austere
  • Modest
  • Humble
  • Earthy
  • Frugal
  • Lowly
  • Quiet
  • Solitary
  • Reticent
  • Withdrawn
  • Undesirable
  • Unwanted
  • Natural
  • Joyous
  • Unpretentious
  • Honest
  • Plain
  • Savouring the sweetness of this moment which is passing and will never come again.
  • Willing to relinquish, to lay down, to step back.
  • Content with being unnoticed and passed over; of no significance.
  • Refraining from intellectual complexity, games and entanglement.
  • Living with economy


Here are some expressions of the way of the wabibito:
Do not wish to be shiny like jade
Be dull like rocks (Tao 39, tr.Derek Lin)

The superb description of sages in Chapter 15 of the Tao.

The instruction of 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (here NIVUK)
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.

Then, there’s the really interesting chapters 18 and 19 of the Tao (translation below by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English), that describe what we would normally consider socially desirable as in fact disastrous – signs that society have lost the way:

Eighteen
When the great Tao is forgotten, 

Kindness and morality arise. 

When wisdom and intelligence are born,
The great pretense begins. 

When there is no peace within the family, 

Filial piety and devotion arise. 

When the country is confused and in chaos, 

Loyal ministers appear.


Nineteen
Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom, 

And it will be a hundred times better for everyone. 

Give up kindness, renounce morality, 

And men will rediscover filial piety and love.
Give up ingenuity, renounce profit, 

And bandits and thieves will disappear.
These three are outward forms alone;
they are not sufficient in themselves. 

It is more important 

To see the simplicity, 

To realize one's true nature, 

To cast off selfishness 

And temper desire.

I see the way of the wabibito, too, in some of William Penn’s writing:

Avoid Company where it is not profitable or necessary; and in those Occasions speak little, and last.
(Fruits of Solitude 128)

Have but little to do, and do it thy self: And do to others as thou wouldest have them do to thee: So, thou canst not fail of Temporal Felicity.
(Fruits of Solitude 241)

Neither make nor go to Feasts, but let the laborious Poor bless thee at Home in their Solitary Cottages.
(Fruits of Solitude 244)

Remember the Proverb, Bene qui latuit, bene vixit. They are happy that live Retiredly.
(Fruits of Solitude 325)