The Golden Thread of the Broken and Un-Broken Things
In DharmaBridge this week we created a drawing/map/timeline/project that we can refer to as a "Golden Thread" Project. If you're reading this, you're probably in DharmaBridge, and I'm sharing mainly for your sake, but posting it here, as anyone could benefit.
(The Golden Thread project is a larger, umbrella term. Today's version was one expression of the Golden Thread project, which may have different forms; it's shown up differently in the past.)
We began with a squiggly line across a page, roughly indicating the course of one's life. Then we placed shapes randomly along the line. Those shapes were then 'labeled' with poetic shorthand to indicate different moments, events, and phenomena stored in our memories.
I prompted you to consider things you’ve left behind, times you’ve cared for yourself exquisitely, a time you felt mothered by someone precious, a time you’ve grieved deeply and come away changed, a time you’ve loved profoundly... and so on.
Both "broken" and "un-broken" memories, moments and things were sketched onto the page in words and symbols. Alice Walker's poem, I will keep broken things, was the inspiration for this particular approach to this exercise, and it is posted below.
In a general sense, the Golden Thread project has one central intention: to give us a way to relate to the moments of life and the stuff of life as laced through with the golden light of awareness, and also, in a sense, an expression OF that same awareness.
So as we do the work of breathing in the broken-ness of the world (all the phenomena and things past and present that arise in our perception) we also recall that they arise from awareness itself.
A central paradox in non-dual traditions is this: "Things", as well as people, places, are real, and definable, and meaningful... and simultaneously, our meanings change, our definitions are made, and even the real-est of things meet their inevitable endings.
We understand the world, and ourselves through the stories we tell ourselves, so refreshing those stories is a valuable practice.
There is a teaching, "Regard all dharmas as dreams." The point of this teaching is to remind us that conditioned mind tends to construct a very 'solid' reality, and there is a liability to leaving that paradigm unchallenged. There is nothing wrong with the conditioned tendency towards solidity, as long as we come to understand it, and explore all the options. The brain likes the chemical soup associated with safety, and often, safety is associated with being right, being certain, not being challenged.
The metta practice is somewhat about generating that same sense of safety internally, so we don't grasp at it so much, or gravitate only towards environments where we feel 'right'.
The practice of Tonglen takes it one step further; can we actually turn towards the friction of our aversions, or the feeling of uncertainty, and stay connected to the breath? This is the idea. Did someone call you a name? Did you get cut off in traffic? Do you wake up feeling like a neurotic mess? Do you stay with insomnia, night terrors, or worries? You may need to just take sometime to settle your nervous system, for sure. But ultimately, when we raise up Bodhicitta, and connect to our wider capacity to be a source of growth and transformation, these affronts, inner and outer, can ultimately provide the road map for how we practice. We expand our experience of the truth by generating intimacy with the material that is on the edges of our comfort zone.
Much practical goodness can be derived from this practice. May it benefit you, and all beings.
I will keep broken things
by Alice Walker
I will keep Broken Things: The big clay Pot With raised Iguanas Chasing Their Tails; Two Of their Wise Heads Sheared Off;
I will keep Broken things: The old Slave Market Basket Brought To my Door By Mississippi A jagged Hole Gouged In its sturdy Dark Oak Side.
I will keep Broken things: The memory Of Those Long Delicious Night Swims With You;
I will keep Broken things: In my house There Remains An Honored Shelf On which I will Keep Broken Things.
Their beauty Is They Need Not Ever Be ‘fixed.’
I will keep Your Wild Free Laughter Though It is now Missing Its Reassuring And Graceful Hinge.
I will keep Broken Things:
Thank you So much!
I will keep Broken Things.
I will keep You:
Pilgrim Of Sorrow.
I will keep Myself.