- Mountains And Waters
“Go ahead, light your candles, burn your incense, ring your bells and call out to the Gods but watch out, because the Gods will come. And they will put you on the anvil and fire up the forge and beat you and beat you until they turn brass into pure gold.” ~ Author Unknown
This writing is for those whose intention is holy. Who are committed to service. Who are willing to turn their lives over to the powers beyond human – by whatever name, here called The Gods – and be used for whatever is most needed by The Whole. That probably means you. If you doubt yourself, it still probably means you. Only if it sounds silly should you exclude yourself from this.
Stories come to mind, of people who have made that commitment, but there are too many. Please share yours, here in the comments. I offer mine, for starters.
I grew up in love with the natural world, and mostly excluded by my peers. My parents were good people, religious, with no psychological or social understanding of how to help me. (Years later I realized how much they loved and treasured me – fortunately while they were still alive.) So the beginning of my commitment would be whenever I started to see myself as an actor in the world. That would be late high school. There’s a marker: in 12th grade, applying for a summer research program at a college, I remember saying “I want to understand everything, and I want it to be useful.” I thought that meant physics, and I didn’t know its use. Later I saw that it meant Buddhism, and the use is evolving.
There were two markers after that. In 2004, not knowing how to respond to political evil, I went to sit zazen (meditation) in public outside both the conventions. It was hard, and I was tired. And, walking from Boston to New York with an anarchist group. I learned that walking is home. In August 2011 I went to Washington with 350.org and got arrested at the White House. I stayed for a week, and on the other days mostly I sat zazen facing each day’s protest. One day I did walking meditation at the protest site. One day, as the only visible Buddhist, I led the group in metta (lovingkindness) meditation, and found it well received.
That September, during formal monastic training, while sitting in the zendo, there were pictures in my mind, pictures of walking along the KXL pipeline with a group of people. The pictures wouldn’t go away. I checked it out with teachers and advisors, and gradually concluded that I should do it. My own teacher simply said “Wait until you have Dharma Transmission.” Another year. The Compassionate Earth Walk happened in 2013.
The Walk itself was very hard, and I was often angry. The walkers talked about why it was so hard, and concluded that our proposal to heal the culture had invoked its faults in our group life. This was some consolation but it was still terribly hard.
I asked myself, again and again, what I could have done differently, what could have made it better. Yet I have never felt so alive, before or since, as when I was fully engaged in that work.
That is the point of this post: the experience of responding to the call is difficult. It is painful. It is full of “what I did wrong” or “what should I have done differently?” or “what a failure I am.”
“the Gods will come. And they will put you on the anvil and fire up the forge and beat you and beat you until they turn brass into pure gold.”
The matter of feeling inadequate is part of the process. It would be nice if we could refrain from beating ourselves up over our inadequacies. But it goes like this: we commit to doing something that is larger than our capacity. We do it – well or badly – and in the process, because our intention is pure, every single flaw is pushed in our face.
That is how it works – becoming more able for the next part of the work.
Two closing thoughts:
If you can recall yourself as part of the whole rather than an independent actor, it helps with those thoughts. There is no such thing as an independent actor; every one of us is a product of the entire world, embedded in it and supported by it. As are our flaws.
The awareness of the flaws is an essential part of the process. Still, there is kindness. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself. Seek support from friends, see a therapist, get enough sleep, good food, calm and joy in your life.
To be continued.