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A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 31, 2009
Evening and a spring thunderstorm rumbles in the distance. Clouds speed across the skies, the wind rises, the air is electric. On the porch, eyes tight shut, I listen with anticipation as the storm approaches. At last I hear the wind and rain in the trees as the storm arrives. In the darkness the sound seems to encircle me. As I listen I can discern distinct patterns in the rainfall - rain on leaves, rain on metal, rain on pavement, rain on water… As the rain intensifies though the individual patterns merge into one cacophonous liquid sound. The wind, more mist than air, envelopes me - cool and damp. As the lightning flashes and thunder rumbles closer the sound seems to move through me. Despite the storm's violence an internal peace comes over me as I continue to listen.
Eyes open now, the lightning illuminates the trees - brilliance...darkness…brilliance... darkness . . . Against the flashes I can see the wind drive the rain with relentless force against the trees and earth. The rain lessens a moment and the individual sound patterns emerge again - rain on leaves, rain on metal, rain on pavement, rain on water... The cold rain stings and tingles where it touches me - I shiver. The lightning and thunder are right above me. The rain intensifies again and the sounds patterns once more merge in the downpour. As the storm moves over me the rainfall becomes softer and softer until it is so quiet that it is possible to hear the wind move through the leaves.
Sometimes it is so wondrous to be alive!
Mark H. Dixon
Department of Philosophy & Religion
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 24, 2009
Let It Be
What would it be like to live on the Earth hearing with an open mind and compassionate heart the sounds of its multitudes? This thought moved through my mind as I crouched on the edge of a pond swollen with spring rains, listening to the peepers and leopard frogs. In the distance, a mallard drake called, his staccato voice breaking the melodies of the song birds. A red headed wood pecker added percussion to the mix. I watched the insects dance above and skate upon the surface of the water. For a moment, my perspective shifted and my 'position' as a human was lost. I became just one life, like the others, as precious to itself as any here. For the briefest fraction of a second, my senses seemed to expand to encompass the globe. I was only one minute source of sound amongst billions of others. Like the arrow marking an infinitesimal speck in the cosmos, "You are Here."
When my head stopped spinning so that I could have stood, I found I didn't want to leave. "Please, allow me to linger further in harmony with you, in this space." It didn't take long for the spell to be broken, but its effects endured. My mind quietly, but regularly, returned to the theme. What would it be like to see and live, for even a day, as though each life on this planet was valuable not for its relationship to us or for the use we or others hope to make of it? What if we could see that it is valuable for its own sake, precious beyond measure?
Would it be possible for us to live without blood on our hands? Could we even conceive the possibility of one day without war, domestic violence or slaughter of animals? What would it be like to feel a vital parity with each life and the planet itself? I can scarcely begin to imagine the effects. However, this I know for certain--the carnage wrought by needless consumption would have to end. What would it be like if we could brake the runaway train of desire and condition our wants to what we actually need? How many more millions would then be able to live in peace, with justice?
I don't know about you, but even the thoughts associated with this meditation challenge me. I immediately begin to make excuses and attempt justifications of my habits and practices. I pause again. At the heart of the matter is a globalized recognition that each life is a fragile treasure. But I feel as though I'm standing in a belfry. My brain reels amidst of the clamor of competing desires and a longing for a life of profound reverence. The opening lines of the Dhammapada quietly emerge and still my mental turbulence. "All that we are is the result of our thoughts; it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. If a man speaks or acts with a harmful thought, trouble follows him as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart."
I am no bodhisattva, but I can work diligently to improve my thoughts and hence with persistent and constructive effort, to enhance my practice. So, this week, in a celebration of life on Earth, I promise to keep returning to the heart of the matter. All of the Earth is sacred. May this thought resound and unite us and let it be soon that with this thought we restore the world.
Kathleen M. Dixon
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 17, 2009
The Edge of Wholeness
Nature is a hologram.
A robin dining on a worm
which tried to cross a sun-drenched patio
reflects the wholeness of creation
as much as do the swaying dandelions
in a brilliant green pasture where dappled horses graze.
A water strider skimming the surface
of a green-tinted valley pond
images the dance of the starry dust
from which it has been formed.
Cosmologists imagine a universe
whose every fraction of space-time
holographically images into reality
the conditions which the boundary imposes
on the whole.
What is real images its boundaries.
But where are the boundaries of life?
Can the seamless unity
of robin, worm, dandelion, and star dust
image that which has no limit?
The universe of a restored marshland
makes known to us
all that it images into reality
from its boundaries.
The green-hooded drake and its dappled mate
waddling in the cover near their nest
rustle the grasses into reality
and start a chain reaction of imaging
that ripples beyond the bounds of their habitat
even unto the edge of the cosmos.
Department of Mathematics
Ohio Northern University
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 10, 2009
For the last month I have savored many opportunities for what I'm calling, "the magnolia meditation." I have watched one old tree as it moved from winter quiescence through the spring floods to its current majesty of sight and scent. I have taken my seat upon a luxurious carpet of ivory petals and felt blessed. It would be a shame to close my eyes during a meditation like this. For it is a visual feast, and one that is short lived. This is the only white magnolia in our neighborhood park and it is giving me a tutorial on beauty and impermanence.
Three weeks ago I studied the magnolia's bud pods. They are quite similar to those of the pussy willow. Except these cones are harder and covered with a longer and finer "fur." Even dried and lying forgotten on the earth around the trunk, they still offer delights rewarding careful attention. As short as the fur of an infant rabbit, it too has a "grain." The fur of the magnolia bud produces a soft whushing sound when stroked. Caressing these delicate hairs and following their whorls with a fingertip is a singular and quite sensual pleasure.
Over time the pressure of the growing petals causes the cones to slowly open and then break apart to reveal a tightly furled and waxy cluster. The increasingly warm sunlight of spring urges the petals to relax. This is the first time I was able to watch them unroll, revealing subtle variations in hue, offering me studies of whites, creams, and ivories.
Last week, while I sat, I observed the cascade of blossoms that even a slight breeze provokes. An ivory petal fell near my cupped hands. It was quite long and narrow. Like any magnolia, it dislikes being touched, its delicate skin bruising brown at the lightest stroke. As I turned it in my hand I noticed one thin line of pinkish lavender running half way up the back of the petal. A brief search revealed that the other fallen petals were similarly marked. I wondered at the burst of rose on the flower's underside. Does this serve some purpose? I lifted my eyes from the petals to see a robin's nest in the thicker branches of the tree. A dark eye watched me warily before hiding again. I expect it had heard the call of its parent from the neighboring crabapple. I left early so as not to unduly disturb this young family.
The last meeting of our tutorial brought me closer to the trunk. I noticed the difference between the skin of the base of the tree and its younger boughs. Areas along the magnolia's central core revealed its age. Coarse and hardened skin had split and cracked. I ran my fingers over the scar tissue, its texture that of an emery board. About two feet up from the base the bark was rough and knobby. Gray and green fungus flourished. As I looked up I saw a thousand or more tiny holes girdling the central shaft and main boughs of the tree. Circlets of pencil points made by the woodpeckers.
This white magnolia has many smooth boughs. The contrast between the young limbs and the aging core seems stark. The slimmer boughs are marked with horizontal lines, like that of the birch, but less regular and numerous. Bringing my face closer to the surface, I noticed thousands of granules in the bark. Darker charcoal dots stipple the gray brown skin. It takes a slow and careful touch to appreciate the subtle enhancements of texture that they bring to the magnolia's surface.
I took my seat much closer to the trunk and looked up into the spectacular canopy this magnolia provides. Gazing up I was entranced by warm spring sunlight filtered through ivory blossoms. I thought, "If I could dwell beneath this magnolia in spring, I might consent to live a thousand years." That might not be enough time to savor the contrast of the golden stamen, the ivory petals and the small oval leaves of a lush spring green. A rich perfume carried on the breeze seemed to confirm the thought.
But neither of us will see even a hundred springs. This white magnolia and I are elders already and who knows what havoc will be wrought by future winters and their storms? These blossoms are more fleeting still. The spring winds shake hundreds of petals from the tree, casting them further and further out. With each passing day, more tips of the tree seem bare. My attachment to the exquisite flowers impedes my appreciation of the leaves. They too should receive their due.
Ill health has interrupted our lessons and kept me indoors too long. I have missed our quiet rendezvous. Sitting daily and observing you in silence brought me great peace. This unwanted interval highlights my exposure and resistance to change. I realize that I will have lost the last of your blossoms and will no longer be able to enjoy their scent. What a pity! Nonetheless, I want to sit and visit with my friend the magnolia. Resting together, while I study, we can ponder the river of time and its passage. As my dry skin brushes against your rough trunk I am amazed that we can still bring forth new leaves.
Kathleen M. Dixon
A WGREN Meditation for the Week of May 3, 2009
Dead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming
But still . . .
Iris, blue each spring
And the grass grows by itself
Live in simple faith . . .
Just as ths
Flowers, fades, and falls
A single petal
Of the cherry blossom fell