The Child and the Mountain Sheep

It was an enchanting day and the child woke up feeling quite energized. The nights chill still hung around in the trees and bushes. The child stretched to the sky and sighed. What new things will I encounter today, the child thought.

She picked a few flowers and a ripe apple from her favorite tree, and set off on her walk through the woods. She had made a special request to sit with the wise old owl. She had so many questions, but one, in particular, was of dire importance. She bit into the crisp, tart apple and added a bit of a hurry to her stride.

The sun had peeked above the mountains and the clouds hung tight to the tops. The mountains were ablaze with a patchwork of colors. Bright yellows, crimson reds, intense oranges, all scattered throughout the green of the forever trees. Forever trees never loose their color or shed their coat of leaves. The birds and insects began to buzz about with the warming of the day.

The child passed the otter’s den and saw she was busily collecting moss and twigs to insulate her home for the winter. She waved and they exchanged a smile, then set off towards the wise old owl’s treehouse.

The day wore on, the sun climbed high in the sky, creating shafts of brilliant light that filtered through the canopy of trees. The child was beginning to tire when suddenly a black and white burro appeared.

“You look like you’ve been walking forever”, noted the burro.

“Yes, since the sun came up”, answered the child.

“Where might those little legs be taking you” asked the burro?

“I have an audience with the wise old owl. I have many questions I want to ask him. He is the oldest and wisest of all the forest creatures”, the child told the burro with delight in her eyes as she spoke.

“I don’t have anything too pressing to do today. Would you like a ride to his treehouse”, offered the burro?

“That would be so kind of you”, and the child slipped onto the burro’s back and off they went.

The child began to tell the burro all the wonderful things she’s learned from her animal friends. She told him of her sorrows and delights and all the things she’s discovered since she came to live at the edge of the forest. How she was special and deeply loved. The burro plodded along slow and quiet, listening with great interest.

After some time, walking quietly, the forest opened up and a huge tree stood in the middle. The most magnificent tree you could imagine. The shafts of light illuminated the tree as if on display. Half way up the tree was a wooden door that led into the enormous trunk. This was the home of the wise old owl.

The child graciously thanked the burro and hugged him tightly. She then began to climb the enormous tree. This posed no problem to the child, she had always climbed trees to get away from her worries, and she was good at it. She climbed and climbed until she stood at the old wooden door. She gently knocked on the door and it slowly opened and the owl flew out without a sound and landed on the branch where the child sat.

“Good day child”, spoke the owl in a gentle but powerful voice.

“Good day Mr Owl”, the child said politely. “I have come to ask you so many questions”, stated the child. “Otter told me that you would be able to answer them all”, squealed the child.

The owl moved closer and put his huge feathered wing around the child and told her to ask away. The child began to speak, each question more involved than the last. The owl was taken back by the curiosity of the child. “And now, for the most important question”, stated the child.

“Well my my young one, where do all these queries come from”, asked the owl?

“I dream the most wonderful dreams”, answered the child.

The child went on to explain that she had noticed that when the days grow shorter, and the trees come into their best colorful show, the tall mountains are always covered in clouds. Why?

The owl summoned the hawk and told him to take the child to the tall mountains so she could see for herself. Needing to know, the child climbed onto the hawks back and he began to ride the thermal currents, round and round, until they reached the clouds on the mountain. The hawk found one of the big ram sheep that live on the mountain and deposited the child at his feet.

The ram stood taller than the child but had a kind demeanor and soft brown eyes. His white coat was thick and curly and his horns were curled tight around the sides of his head. He looked frightening and yet so cuddly, the child jumped up and gave him a huge hug.

“What brings you so high into the mountains my child?” asked the ram.

The child began to tell the ram all about the owl and her questions. She told him that she was told to go to the top of the mountains with the hawk to find the answer to the one question she needed the answer to. She explained how she noticed the clouds were always draped around the peaks when the trees turned colors and the days grew short. The ram sat back and listened intently as the child told him of all the things she had learned, telling him story after story.

When she finally finished, the ram told her to climb onto his back and he would take her to see. She climbed on and held tight to his giant horns and he began to climb, and climb, and climb. The child showed no fear, even though she was terrified, she wanted to be brave. As they came closer to the clouds she could see hundreds of mountain sheep huddled together around a huge lake.

The ram helped her down and took her over to the herd. She noticed that several of the sheep would grab the clouds as they drifted past. Then the rest of the herd would hold it until the cloud relented and dropped all the water they held. The water was collected in the lake at the top of the mountain. The child couldn’t believe her eyes as she watched this carefully orchestrated task.

The ram looked at the child and said, “now you see with your own eyes.”

“But why?” asked the child.

The ram began to tell the child about hunters and cars and dangers that lurked for the herd if they descended from the safety of the mountain tops. They needed to figure a way to get water so they asked the great spirit for help. He told her that one night the great spirit appeared to the herd and told them of the plan. From that day forward, mother’s never mourned the loss of their ewes and ewes were no longer left without the love of their mother. The child felt the sadness that the ram explained.

“This was a great plan,” exclaimed the child in a joyous voice. “Mothers are important,” said the child, “and being without one is hard and lonely.”

She tried to hide her tears but the old ram felt the sorrow and curled around the child and she fell into a deep sleep. When she awoke, she was lying back in her hammock at the edge of the forest. She threw her legs off the edge and sat still, gazing at the clouds clinging to the mountain tops and smiled.

Not For The Faint of Heart

It was an early morning. I tried to sleep a little longer but the thoughts of the days activities wouldn’t play along. I woke up and said a prayer to the day and got out of bed. I looked at myself in the mirror. I felt a wave come over me of joyousness and acceptance of the path I am about to commit to.

It’s been a year of practice. A year of searching, changing and forgiveness of myself and others. Only one time before in my life have I ever felt this amount of calm spiritual contentment. I have learned to listen even if I disagreed. I have learned to find peace with myself. I have embraced loving kindness and compassion for myself and others. I am about to make a lifetime commitment to being the best person I can be not only for myself but others. To become selfless and accepting. It is my day to take refuge in the three jewels…the Buddha, Dharma and the sangha until my mind is awakened to the emptiness of calm abiding. What a magic moment.

The teacher explained the weight of this commitment and asked if we were sure that this

Path, this yearning to learn the dharma and follow its teachings, and to support the like minded sangha. We all confirmed. I now can join the ranks of the Buddhists working in the shadows for the benefit of all beings.

My heart and my inner most being has always been about surviving from day to day from a dark cloud that always has hung heavy over me. This practice has allowed me to find ways within to move past that dark place and reawaken a little girl in a way grown up body. To comfort and love her again. To be a more affirmative and positive person. Maybe I am a bit loud and brash but the heart is soft and has more love than a person deserves. Enough to spread the wealth and enjoy the journey.

The Child and the Rainbow Paintbrush: A Creation Story

One night, in the land of whimsy and magic, a small child had the most marvelous dream.

The animals and small creatures of the forest and fields came to her.

The little child listened as they explained, in only language she could understand.

The small birds chirped wildly and the bees buzzed in swarms…even the small snails, ants and geckos had something to say.

It seemed the world was missing something very important and she listened with deep concern only a child could have.

She promised she would try to find a solution and went searching high and low.

Finally she came to a big tree… it was so tall she couldn’t see the top so she began to climb.

She tried not to be afraid as she got higher and higher.

All at once she heard a small voice…it was a spider hanging from her back legs on a silken thread.

“What brings you so high into my tree young one,” the spider asked.

The child answered, “I am looking for an answer to the small animals and insects of my small forest.”

The spider pondered and said to the child, “I know someone who can help, but you must continue to climb up my tree past the clouds and into the heavens.

The child looked up and was frightened but summoned up all her courage, fueled by her love for all her small friends, and with the help of the spider, began to climb higher and higher.

Finally, after a long time climbing, she cleared the clouds and looked around.

The sky above the tree was colorless and was blinding.

She could hear the swoosh of a birds wings coming closer and her eyes adjusted in time to see a huge hawk as it landed beside her in the tree.

The spider and the child told the story to the hawk, of her search for something for her friends, the small birds and insects of the forest.

The hawk told the child to climb on its back and she did, without hesitation, and the hawk spread his wings and flew off.

He knew the only one who could solve such a problem and he headed straight up and into the blank sky.

The child felt the power and protection of the hawk and fell to sleep, nestled in his broad neck feathers and dreamed a dream inside her dream.

The hawk came to rest on a tall mountain top, high above the clouds of the world below.

The child slowly was helped down and told to go into the cave that sparkled like a star, so she went off along a rocky trail until she saw it…

A cave so beautiful it sparkled like the night sky full of twinkling stars. The child couldn’t believe her eyes.

In the cave sat a small woman on a blanket of white buffalo hide, her eyes twinkled with a loving energy and his hair was as white as snow. She looked up softly smiling at the small child.

She walked over and the woman held out her hand and the child put her tiny hand in hers.

“What a small child to be carrying such a huge burden for your small animal friends,” the woman spoke in a quiet, even voice. “The love in your heart and the purity of that love has brought you to me, I am pleased.”

The small child was amazed the woman knew of her journey and her desire to help the small creatures of the forest. The child smiled.

The woman told the child to sit beside her and they would think together. All of a sudden rainbows began to emanate from the cave walls and circled the two.

The woman took a paintbrush from her cloak and captured the rainbows. She handed the brush to the child.

Next she waved her hands in the air and the sweetest smell filled the cave and she reached in her sleeve and pulled out a jar and captured the sweetness in the bottle and tightly closed the lid. She handed the jar to the child.

The child looked up at the small woman standing now before her. She reached out and touched her cloak and she spoke in a soft voice, “take these and go back to the forest and seek out the spider, she has the power to create and will need to instruct you on how to use these to help your tiny friends,” and in a burst of golden light she disappeared.

The child looked at the paintbrush and the bottle with wonder and returned to the hawk who quickly took flight.

Returning to the tree top, the small child thanked the hawk and he spread his broad wings and flew into the empty sky.

A small voice woke the child from her dream. Was anything the child remembered real? She put her hand in her bag there they were, the paintbrush and the jar.

“Oh spider, I am so glad you waited,” said the child.

The child told the spider the dream she thought she had but here were the items the small woman gave to her.

The spider laughed, “oh small human, you have met The Great Spirit Guru, she is the creator of all things, even you. Allow me to show you how to solve your problem,” and with that, the spider took the paintbrush and thought hard as she used the paintbrush to paint the sky blue and added a few white clouds.

The child watched in wonderment as the emptiness was transformed into a beautiful sky. She took the brush, and following the spiders instruction, thought hard and painted a brilliant sun. She giggled with delight.

The spider then helped the child back to the earth and she wandered back to her small forest.

She walked over to a green bush and with the paintbrush, painted a small object on it, then took the jar and poured out some of the sweet smell. She repeated this over and over again on trees, bushes and vines.

“I have been to see The Creator of us all,” said the child to her small animal friends. “The spider and hawk helped me to find the answer by taking me to her cave.”

The small animals, birds and insects circled the child and watched as she took out the paintbrush and thought hard, the answer came to her, like in her dream.

The small animals, birds and insects of the forest watched for days and days as the child worked.

She finished late in June, the time of the long, hot days.

The sweet smell of these beautiful things she created fill the air and the bees and birds were instantly drawn to them. Each was filled with nectar for the birds and pollen for the bees. Other small animals also delighted in this new thing.

One night, all the animals gathered around the small child in celebration and gazed up into the night sky.

The hawk and spider joined in the celebration.

The animals, birds and insects, all fulfilled, asked the child what was this life giving sweet thing she created?

The child looked to the spider for a creative name…

“I will call it a flower,” answered the child, after long deep thought.

The Child and the Green Buddha

One day while walking alone in the woods a child found a path.

In all her days living in the woods and along the streams,

She had never seen this path before

It shimmered with light that sparkled on the horizon

It looked like diamonds hovering in the most bluish green sky she’d ever seen.

She wandered slowly over to the path,

It was the softest thing beneath her feet she’d ever felt

She explored further and further until all at once,

The path opened up onto the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen

Being from the woods she didn’t know what this soft powder was

She saw a turtle digging in the sand and asked,

“Mr Turtle, what is this soft wonderfully warm ground called?

It’s a wonderful surprise!”

The turtle answered, in a low soft voice, “why it is sand child, have you never been to the sea?”

With glee the child took a deep breath and smelled the most delicious air ever

“I like the smell of the air”, said the small child

“It’s the smell of the sea child,” said the turtle

The child thought to herself that the sea looked like beautiful patchwork quilt of colors

She thanked the turtle and moved down closer to the sea

She saw a figure standing at the edge and watched as the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky gathered

She walked quietly, not making a single sound

The powdery warm sand beneath her feet brought joy to her heart and she smiled

As she grew closer

The figure turned around

His face was bright like the sun and rainbows danced off his finger tips

The birds of the sky circled him and cried joyous songs

The fish of the sea danced on top of the water

The man handed the girl a stone

It was the most beautiful jade green she had ever seen although it was quite plain.

The man told the girl to hold onto the stone and that any time she needed to be comforted from a bad dream or to dry her tears

She could hold the stone and he would appear in her mind

Clearing away all that she feared and make her know

It’s not real

The girl thanked the man and took her pretty jade green rock and went back towards the path

She thanked the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea, turned and walked back into the woods where she lived

She ran back to the Wolf and told him what had happened

When the wolf heard the story he asked the girl to see the rock

As she pulled it from the little pouch that hung around her neck,

It felt quite different and not the same plain rock she was given

She placed it in the palm of her hand and held it out for the Wolf to see

As she opened her hand the rock had turned into a likeness of the man she met

The Wolf knew this man and explained to the little girl about the man who loves all beings

He lives in the woods and the sea, the earth and the sky, and now he lives here

The Wolf touched the girl with his nose

She looked at the beautiful green statue she held in her hand

“Does he have a name?” asked the child

“Buddha,” answered the Wolf.

And you seek

And today you seek refuge
In the vastness of this time and space
The longing for enlightenment
The end of a samsaric existence
To be a champion for those
Lost in the darkness of the matrix of life
An endless cycle
Refuge in the jewels
Refuge in the way
The middle ground
Today you seek
Not for an answer but an awakening
To open the heart mind to a deep feeling
To release the bondage
Of the monkey mind
The closed off heart
To become selfless and kind
Today you seek

Emptiness

The sound of the river rushing by in constant flow

The towering cliffs stand tall and hard against the deep blue sky

Carved by this liquid snake over eons of time

The trees stand and watch the the endless motion of this fluid architect

Gently the bubbles make their way down the current

Rocks hold to their purchase of land against the rivers flow

Others roll along without putting up a fight

My mind is sucked into the current… empty… constantly fluid… clinging to nothing

The Awakening

To say my life has taken a turn is putting it quite mildly. Over the last month I have experienced perfect bliss, extreme pain, illness, dis-ease, sadness, loneliness, fear and a greater awareness of love and compassion. All these exist within me. My physical being continues on its finite path of growing older yet I have awaken something dormant, something that has been there all along, but stuffed deep inside, buried under all the superficial pain and suffering, fear and longing. My soul, my spirit, my inner most aliveness. I have tapped into a wellspring of emotions and feelings and have made a safe place for these not so friendly parts of me. I have opened myself up to being mindful of all my surroundings, each moment as it unfolds, for good or bad. I have found a calmness that has long since eluded me. Through my practice and the teachings I have the tools to be content. I have found a silence that screams loudly yet does not break the peacefulness in my mind and heart. I am learning to make peace with my inner child, my fears, doubts and longings.

As my life unfolds in this new awareness, I am utilizing as many tools as I have available to try to incorporate this into my life. The silent movements of T’ai Chi, the quietness and inner searching of my meditation practice, taking in the beautiful world in my own back yard, all these are teaching me in their own way. The suffering of an illness way beyond my control and acknowledging the fears that it brought. The courage to put my unraveling life into the hands of caring professionals and friends who nursed me back to health, each in their own way. For all these things I have a grateful heart.

Everything that will happen today, that is happening in this moment, will all be gone tomorrow with just an imprint on my memory that will soon fade away into that which was my life, my past. I no longer need to make those memories, my past, my current life’s story or influence my path. They are just experiences that I have had, today is a new day, tomorrow is unknown, so I choose to live in this moment and make myself the best I can be for this moment, this day.

It is hard at times when I am bombarded with outside negativity on a constant basis. Some of these influences I can turn off, like the TV and social media. Others are present and part of my daily life and I am learning to listen with one ear and hear the lessons of my teachers with the other. I have chosen to stop internalizing those negative influences as this is like a cancer eating at my very inner most being, it is poison to my spirit which wishes to be free and happy. I am brought back to this moment by my puppy who sees me as perfect in all lights. He lives a simple life, happy just to get scratches, play, eat and sleep. Ah…to have such a simple life.

This is a second, third, maybe forth chance at this life. I have messed it up so many times before. I listen, learn, practice and then as time goes on… as life presents itself, I allow myself to get drawn back into the haste and forget to take care of myself and I end up in the same situation over and over again, with the same results. Some people call that insanity. So, as always, this new awakening I am incorporating into my “new life”. My intention this time is to cultivate it, nurture it and feed it on a daily basis with silence and practice. I choose to separate myself from the expectations of those around me that would love for me to be sucked back up into the games. This has to be about me this time and that needs to remain my constant focus. I don’t know if I’ll get another chance at another “do over”.

Day Six: What’s it All About?

If I hadn’t cried enough this week the whole room was a heaving sea of sobbing bodies. The final meditation was on forgiveness. It’s been really hard for me to say I’m sorry…sincerely. My apologies have always been empty and sarcastic.

Today I was forced to examine my part in the harm I’ve caused. The last few months have probably been very difficult for those around me. Today I owned my part in the pain I have unintentionally and intentionally inflicted on those around me. I have forgiven those who have intentionally and unintentionally hurt me. My heart has been released from the heavy chains of resentment and hurt.

As in every sitting we invited those close to us into our heart space and loved them, then those who have passed on and our ancestors into the heart and wrapped them in love. Then, the hardest was to bring in those who have caused us harm and forgave them for what they have done…of the 85 people in the room, including the teachers, there was not a dry eye in the hall.

We closed our session with a dharma talk and prayer for our departed friends, family and others. We had been putting together a small alter in their memory. I wrote a small note about Faye. She would have loved the transformation I have made this week. I thought about her quite often and she accompanied me through my down times as she used to do when she was still with us. I feel that I have finally grieved for her one last time and after five years she is now in a soft place in my heart and a guiding force in my life.

The day ended with our silence being released. Hugs were exchanged and well wishes given. The 85 people I spent these intimate last 6 days with will be indelibly etched into my life, even though I may never meet them again. We shared something so intimate in our individual silence. I have walked away with a felling of community and love. Compassion for life and a love for all beings, most importantly, myself!