Posts filed under ‘Spiritual Almanack’

A Spiritual Almanack: February – Seeds

Hexagram 3:  Chun – Difficulty at the Beginning

Cloud (water)

Over

Thunder

After stillness, action; after rest, movement; after completion: beginning. One yin and one yang make up the entire universe.

In February seeds lie in the ground, but they are not dormant. Within they are beginning to stir, slowly uncurling, starting the long journey to fulfil their mysterious inner potential. But we cannot see their progress; the ground hides them, just as our deepest motives and impulses, the mysterious unseen movers that cause us to move, lie hidden in our psyche.

The Decision of the I Ching Hexagram 3, Beginning says,

The beginning of a tiny sprout.

Sublimely prosperous and smooth.

Favourable to be steadfast and upright.

Do not act lightly.

From the slowly rousing seed, there emerges first a root, which buries itself deep into the soil, and then a tiny seedling appears, a tender shoot which rises up. This first tendril represents new life, and life grows out of two movements – the rise of yang and the descent of yin. The seed surrenders itself to the earth and in turn receives nourishment from it.

In our yoga practise as in life we need to follow both of these dimensions: using gravity to find our own root, and using our prana, our life energy, to rise up. We need to understand how we relate to the ground, how we use the ground. To find our own root is to learn to trust the earth, and to let it really support us, with no holding on to muscle tension. The ground represents elemental power and energy, the power that nurtures and grows.  Can we trust it enough to just let go and rest into it?

The seed is the essence of the plant, just as our seeds – our cells and eggs – contain our essence, our inner self.  So in this season our being starts to emerge from its hibernation, the life force unfolding towards the light. Seeds are powerhouses of energy, sharply concentrated and attentive foci of action. The smallest plant, soft and pliable, carries tremendous power in its root, the serenely unfolding yang power of the life force. We too have this power within us, but our fears, doubts and anxiety create obstacles that inhibit the release of the intense force of our life energy. Hexagram 3 is an emblem of this situation: the crashing power of the thunder is damped down by the clouds above. Our tremendous latent power is covered over and inhibited. Before we are able to emerge into our own light we must make a journey back, a reversal into our root so that we can again emerge from it. Paradoxically, we make progress by moving backward, crablike, as the Tao Te Ching tells us,

The Tao moves the other way

The Tao works through weakness

To go back the other way means to return to the root, to the source and origin of our being, where our power lies hidden and sleeping, coiled like the serpent power – Kundalini. Yoga is a means of discovering and releasing this latent energy so that we can use it in daily life. Many of us live too much in our heads so we need to practice bringing our energy down to our base, our fundament.  Vanda Scaravelli taught a yoga influenced strongly by using gravity, allowing the natural pull of weight to draw us down to earth, to ground our self in ourself. When we work on the base – the essential, the fundamental – then we are working with the base chakra, the first power centre of the body.  As we allow ourselves to be supported by life, solidly grounded on the earth, comfortable in our own skin, then we are balanced in the root chakra. And the root chakra is the support of all the other chakras.

Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa says:

We connect to the planet through our first chakra, and it’s where we return ourselves back to the earth beneath us.  It is at our first chakra that we accept we are even here on earth.  It is where we first say ‘yes’ to life.

Once we can unconditionally say ‘yes’ to life we can discover our true self, our true nature, and in doing so we liberate our energy and become free of fear, as the Katha Upanishad tells us,

When the wise understand that it is only through the Eternal Self that we see, taste, smell, feel, hear, and enjoy, they meditate on this Self and go beyond all suffering.  When we are present with our Self, we are beyond fear.  And this is our true nature.  The Eternal Self lives not only in our hearts but also among the physical elements. It is a boundless power manifesting as life itself, entering every heart, living there among the elements – that is the Eternal Self.

When we lose fear we automatically gain courage, which is why courage is one of Socrates’ cardinal virtues. He did not mean only the bravery of a soldier, but our everyday courage when we strive to overcome our deepest fears. Yoga can be a powerful tool to help us gather our courage, and learn to live in greater freedom. When we are free, we begin to see reality clearly, without the delusion of the past. In such a state, we can see the obstacles that stop us, can grow past our old conditioning, can learn to grow  ‘prosperous and smooth’, just like the tiny plants.

As the Zen monk Tiantong Hongshi says,

Everywhere life is sufficient, in its way.

In us life is also sufficient, and we have everything we need within to fulfil our enormous potential. All we have to do is wake up and realise it.

February 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

A SPIRITUAL ALMANAC: JANUARY – SILENCE

Iam the secret of silence and the wisdom of the wise. Bhagavad Gita , Ch.10

Hexagram 24:    RETURN (FU)

Earth

over

Thunder

Short days; long nights;

The earth is silent;

Rest in the darkness.

At this time of year yang energy is renewing itself; it is fragile and needs rest, nurturing and protection. This is a time to examine yourself, refine yourself, cultivate your virtue and master your mind, waiting for the right time to act in the days to come.

Lao Tzu said,

Attain utter emptiness;

Maintain the deepest stillness,

While all creatures rise and fall,

I silently watch their return.

*******

Silence is sacred; silence is our refuge; silence is our peace. Modern life is an assault of sound, a blast of brute noise designed to grab our attention and hold it entranced by sound so that we can be sold things we don’t need. TV commercials, muzak in lifts, the constant background din of cars, trains and planes all distract us away from our inner peace.

Remember that the core of yoga is silence. When you can find that silent space within and stay in it, then you are in tune with yourself and the world: safe, secure and at home within your own skin. In this state you have no need to worry about the quality of your asana positions, or to wonder how someone else is getting along, or to fret about your work or other activities. You merely are. Existence itself is knowledge and bliss wrapped up in one, and you are that – you are one with all.

The earth, too, is silent in January, the generative power sunk deep within the ground. No birds sing, no insects buzz, and life sleeps in hibernation.

In Taoist alchemy this dead of winter represents the utmost quiescence, when real knowledge can emerge from primal emptiness. The alchemists call this the Living Midnight or Lead meets Winter, since winter followed by spring is like midnight followed by dawn, when the culmination of the cold dark yin is followed by the rising of the hot light yang energy. Slowly the yang energy emerges from its long winter sleep resting in the ground, and the potential for new life begins again.

It is a turning point in the year’s cycle. When things proceed to the extreme of the deepest darkness, they naturally alternate to the opposite: the dimmest light returns. This is a law of Nature. The time of darkness passes. The winter solstice brings back the banished light. And just as light returns, so we too must also return to our inner light. In the depths of our being we must seek the self, the one, our essence or origin- that ascending force of life.

*******

Prime Minister Pei Hsiu brought his written interpretation of Chan Buddhism for his master Huang Po to read. Huang Po accepted the text but laid it aside without opening it, and remained silent. The Prime Minister waited patiently for the words of his master, but Huang Po stayed silent. His silence lasted for a very long time. It filled the space between the two men and began to permeate the entire hall. When the silence seemed loud enough to burst, Huang Po leaned towards the Prime Minister and said, “Understand?”

Consider the meaning of this silence against the words rumbling on this page.

*********

When practicing asanas, or doing Tai Chi Chuan, we enter this meditative state of silence and in that quietness we are able to find our true selves, the inner essence, the kernel of who we really are.

The Person who in movement finds rest, and who understands that movement grows from stillness and rest, sees the light, and finds peace in all his actions.  Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 4.

In Chinese the word for mind is hsin, which means the mind/heart. It can literally mean kernel or essence. Mind in a state of quiescence is similar to Christian innocence, the primal mind of humanity before the fruit of knowledge was eaten. To find this mind is to see your original face before you were born.

One secret of a successful life is to find a way to extend this silence into the other parts of life, into the busyness of life away from the yoga mat , where the stresses and conflicts of mundane existence can easily drag us away from our inner peace. Finding inner peace and maintaining inner peace are two separate practices.

*********

Silence is a place of great power. When we find those fleeting moments of silence our meditation can then undo our bodies from the inside, in subtle ways that the asanas cannot reach. The silent state of meditation is a healing state, providing a balance and harmony to all of our existence.

Periods of silence within a relationship indicate trust, love and peace – those moments when we have no need to talk, and are just able to accept the other person as they are – without criticism, judgement or withdrawal.

*******

In silent meditation, we put to rest our worries and cares, but meditation is not the ultimate answer. It is only a raft to get us to the distant shore:

The Master Huai-Jang asked Ma-Tsu, “Why do you sit all day in meditation?” Ma-Tsu answered, “I want to become a Buddha.” Hearing this, the Master picked up a brick and started rubbing it on a stone. “What are you doing?” asked Ma-Tsu. “I am polishing this brick to make a mirror.” “How can you make a mirror by rubbing a brick?” Ma-Tsu asked. “How can you become a Buddha by sitting in meditation?”

In the end we must return to the activity of life, to the crossroads and the marketplace, and share with others the insights and power we have discovered in meditation:

Barechested, barefooted he comes into the marketplace.

Muddy and dust-covered, how broadly he grins!

Without recourse to mystic powers,

Withered trees he swiftly brings to bloom.

*******

In the end silence brings us closer to our true nature and to God. It is in that silence that we can be present in the moment.

When we observe our breath we can find silence and stillness at that lovely pause at the end of the in-breath and before the breath turns at the end of the out-breath. These pauses, if we let them, can be our entry into the eternal.

January 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm 3 comments

A Spiritual Almanack- December

December – Stillness

Hexagram 52- Gen: Keeping Still

Mountain

Over

Mountain

Mountain above, mountain below, mountain over mountain is complete stillness. Keeping still is not just resting the body in stillness, but the mind and spirit as well. When sitting cross-legged, one is shaped like a mountain. When we sit in stillness, meditating, we control our breath and our mind, and this cultivates inner strength and virtue. This is the highest state of nonattachment, to become oblivious to one’s surroundings and one’s body.

Confucius said,

The way of the Great learning is to illustrate perfect virtue,

To love people, and to rest in conduct that is perfectly good.

By knowing how to keep still,

One is able to determine what objects to pursue.

By knowing what objects to pursue,

One is able to attain calmness of mind.

By knowing how to attain calmness of mind,

One is able to succeed in tranquil repose.

By knowing how to succeed in tranquil repose,

One is able to obtain careful deliberation.

By knowing how to obtain careful deliberation,

One is able to harvest what one really wants to pursue.

December 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack – November

November – Darkness

Hexagram 29- Kan

water

over

water

 

In times of danger and darkness, people should cling to one another.

Although this time of year is one of increasing darkness, an expansion of yin, we don’t have to give in to that darkness or sink into fear and despair. There is always the possibility of finding the light within. In life we have two choices: we can choose the path of love or take the path of suffering. Because life is complicated, sometimes the path of love leads to suffering and the path of suffering conversely can lead to love. But when we find the light or choose to move towards it we move towards love and embrace whatever life brings us.

Our existence depends on the light of the sun. It gives us energy, warms us, and gives life to the plants which feed us. But light is important for us not just for physical sustenance but as a spiritual need. Light has always been identified as the source of life, consciousness and the spirit, just as darkness has been identified with ignorance and death.

The Prasna Upanishad says,

The rising sun is the symbol of life; it rises to bring light to our eyes.

The sun is life, the moon is matter. The sun gives light and life to all who live, and is the life-energy of the universe.

Therefore, the wise see the Lord of Love in the sun rising in all its golden radiance to give warmth, light and love to all.

All of us, no matter what colour we are, or language we speak, share the same response to the light. As the yogis and rishis of ancient India understood, we are all part of one united Self and we share this Self – what I experience you too experience, what I feel you feel. This is the foundation of the first law of ethics, the Golden Rule found in so many cultures:

Act towards others as you would like them to act towards you.

When we realise this unity we are able to act together, to collectively raise our faces to the light, which shines not just as a symbol of life but as a symbol of our freedom. We can then stand and stare in wonder and amazement at the beauty of that light, the light that represents insight, truth and understanding, warmth and compassion. It is only our ego driven attachments that obscure this light.

To act together means to find solidarity and community with others, and this is why the I Ching says,

In times of danger and darkness, people should cling to one another.

We are living in dangerous times, and our leaders are foolishly breeding even more fear among us, but at such a time it’s important to realise that whatever dangers we face we do not face them alone, but are all in this life together. Then we are able to understand that united we can be strong and conquer our fears, while divided as individuals we merely cower at home.

The sun is constantly shining, even though clouds sometimes obscure it and the turning of the earth puts it beyond our sight. But even at night the moon reminds us of the sun’s presence. When something that we know exists is absent, we feel its presence even more. These lines were found scribbled on a ghetto wall in 1945:

I believe in the sun though it is late in rising.

I believe in love though it is absent.

I believe in God though he is silent.

What we seek is harmony, the perfect balancing of dark and light, positive and negative, spiritual and material, optimism and caution, consciousness and the unconscious, that will allow us to synchronise our lives with the laws of nature. When we think and act in harmony, then life has an integrity, a wholeness that permeates, surrounds and arranges all of our relationships, giving us an incredible lightness of being that enables us to float up from the darkness of fear and despair into the sparkling radiance of the light. We can become like Chuang Tzu’s Taoist immortals,

Their spirits mount up on the light,

their bodies freed from limitations.

This we call being bright and ethereal.

They complete their destiny,

and leave no single potential unfulfilled.

They enjoy heaven and earth,

and life’s conflicts dissolve.

All things return to their original nature,

merging with the mysterious darkness.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad tells us that our yoga practise is a means of discovering the inner light of our original nature, the light of wisdom and grace,

Choose a clean quiet and cool place for meditation and the practise of yoga, where the sounds of dancing water and the beauty of the place foster thought and contemplation. In deep meditation you may see forms like snow or smoke, you may feel a strong wind blowing, or a wave of heat, or you may see more and more light within. These are signs that you are on the spiritual path to reach the Eternal Spirit of Brahman.

When the yogi has full power over his body, he can increase the spiritual fire within, giving better health, a light body, and freedom from craving.  When a gold mirror is covered with dust, it shines again when it has been cleaned.  When you have been cleansed with the truth of the Spirit your life is fulfilled and you are beyond suffering. Then you become a lamp by which you find the truth of the spirit and see the pure Everlasting Spirit, freeing you from all bondage.

This is the Spirit whose light illumines all creation, the creator of all from the beginning. He was, he is and always shall be; he is in all and sees all. Let us adore the Lord of Life who is ever present in fire, water, plants and trees.

The writers of the Upanishads created this prayer, which epitomises our spiritual quest,

Lead us from the unreal to the real

Lead us from the darkness to the light

Lead us from the fear of death to knowledge of immortality

November 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanac – October

CONTRACTION

Hexagram: 41 Sun

Mountain above Lake

After yang reaches its peak in the summer solstice, it reverts to yin. Expansion comes to an end and a slow contraction begins, the energy reversing and turning in on itself. The sap sinks from the branches of the trees, draining the vibrant green life from the leaves, drying them to burnt brown and yellow. At last the sap contracts into the earth, just as our own energies contract inwards, preparing us for the long winter’s rest.

The annual death of nature reminds us of our own mortality, and it is easy to become depressed at this season. The warmth of summer recedes in the memory and we have only the bitter cold of a long winter to look forward to. But the knowledge that Nature’s death is only temporary, and will revive again in spring gives us an insight into the cycles that dominate our lives: the contrast of day and night, the ebb and flow of the seas, the revolving seasons, the moving stars and planets, the cycles of the moon all embed us in a cyclical yet ever-changing universe. All of these cycles of nature are patterns of energy. And our body and mind are also made up of these same patterns of energy, expressing themselves in cycles: the contrast of in-breath and out-breath, the heart beating fast and slow, the cycle of digestion from food to waste, and the entire arc of our lives from birth to death, are demonstrations of energy patterning. In our bodies we are aware of this energy as prana or chi, and its free circulation determines our health and longevity.

We long for a vision of wholeness, of perceiving and living a unified life, being at one with all of creation. But this oneness can only come through an understanding of the dualities that are in us and which surround us, and make up the world of appearance that confronts us every day. Just as the Chinese believe that the endless combination of yin and yang are the two forces that make up all the universe, so the forces of duality that we live amongst make up our earthly world: love and hate, war and peace, conflict and co-operation, stress and tranquillity, aggression and compassion, profit and loss, fear and joy, sorrow and happiness, wealth and poverty, health and illness. We are surrounded and embedded in dualities, but our task is to understand that all these qualities are polar opposites leading to a higher unity that encompasses and transcends them. These dualities, since they too are expressions of energy, must represent the same cycles of energy that the universe demonstrates on the larger scale.

Our culture impels us to want to live with the yang side of these dualities: we would prefer health, wealth, joy, happiness, co-operation, tranquillity, but it is not possible to avoid the opposite yin side of things. To want one without the other is to misunderstand the nature of the universe and therefore the nature of our mind, body and spirit. The Tai Chi Chuan master Cheng Man Ching said to his students, “You must have the fearlessness to suffer loss.” For a long time I didn’t understand what this teaching meant. Why should we want to suffer loss? But I came to understand that Cheng Man Ching meant that we must not one-sidedly seek out the positive and desirable parts of life and avoid the negative, but must accept both equally and be prepared to take in the more painful and suffering side, since there is really no way that we can avoid it. If we want yang without yin, we will not succeed in life. There must be the cold of winter to insure the heat of summer. As he said, “It’s only when a person is able to suffer great loss that in the end he will have great gain.” If we want to be whole we need to become aware of and accept the dark shadow side of life, and that also means the dark shadow side to ourselves. In the end we must accept contraction as well as expansion, which means accepting and coming to terms with our inevitable death. As the Tao Te Ching says,

Recognise the white

But hold on to the black

And be the world’s guide.

Being the world’s guide

Don’t stray from ancient virtue

Not straying from ancient virtue

Be without limits again.

When someone asked Cheng Man Ching, “What is the most important reason to practise Tai Chi Chuan? “ he said, “The most important reason is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is about, you’d have some health to enjoy it. “ One can repeat this about yoga practise and study – when yoga helps us to finally come to an understanding of some of life’s meaning, it also gives us the health and energy to enjoy and revel in it. When Jews celebrate together, the toast we make is ‘L’Chaim’ – To Life – and the decision to always choose life means to choose the path of spiritual life rather than death, to choose light rather than darkness, to always try to do the right thing, and in all of life to seek out and follow the truth of our own being, as far as we are able. It is only by following this true path that we can find any happiness, satisfaction and true meaning in life.

October 14, 2009 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanac – September

Hexagram 45  Cui: Gathering

Lake  over Earth

Fruit falls from the trees in Autumn, leading to the image of gathering. The fullness of the earth’s bounty, the richness of nature, gives us a feeling of abundance, of sufficiency, that there exists more than enough for all living creatures. Life overflows, a cornucopia of creativity and wealth.

Commentary on the symbol:

Lake over Earth.

An image of gathering together.

In correspondence with this,

The superior person repairs his weapons

To guard against unexpected happenings.

When we eat the fruits and grains of the earth we take in the goodness and natural medicines they contain. In this way we gather the medicines in our body that lead to health and well-being. By eating well we immunise ourselves against physical illness, strengthening our energy. But how do we immunise ourselves against spiritual illness, the malaise of our times?

When we gather together and meditate, there is a heightened atmosphere in the space, an electrical charge that is sometimes missing when we meditate alone. This communal atmosphere created by our spirits tuning together is the sense of presence, of something greater than ourselves that is at the same time part of us. The sense of this presence can give us a feeling of security and tranquillity.  In Judaism the word for presence is shekina, and it is one of the words for God. When we meditate together we are calling this presence to us, opening ourselves to an essence beyond our small and temporary lives. When we chant together we create an energy field around us that we can also feel within ourselves bringing us closer to our inner spirit.

The promise that God made to the Jewish people, and therefore to all people, is that even if we turn away from the divine, the divine will never turn away from us. Martin Buber’s translation of the Bible has God saying to Moses:

When you need me I will be there.

So if we ever need spiritual help from the presence it is always there, just waiting for us to turn to it. The word Religion comes from religio meaning binding together, and yoga means union. Union and binding together are both forms of gathering. Religion gathers people together, while yoga unites and integrates all the fragmented parts of ourselves, the parts that modern life has separated. But when we manage to discover and live the feeling that mind, body, spirit and soul are one whole living organism, then we feel the joy of being. We recover our true selves, and understand that all selves are really one self. With this knowledge we lose the feeling of being a stranger in a strange universe and instead feel at home in the universe that has created us.

When we practise the yoga asanas and breathe with awareness, we can gather energy from the earth beneath us.  With each exhalation we surrender to the universe, with each inhalation every cell of our bodies is renewed and restored.

Just as we gather medicines together to heal the body, so we gather with others to heal the body politic. When we are able to bring multitudes of people together, then the power of presence is very strong, strong enough to create new communities, new tribes, new nations. When people come and assemble together, as in the demonstrations against the Iraqi invasion, there is a tremendous feeling of solidarity, of togetherness. We realise how insecure and fearful we are when we live lives of selfish isolation, and how powerful is our connection to other people. The Taoist I Ching says,

When people gather in their spirit and energy, cultivate essence and life, and restore the original natural reality, that is coming back to our roots.

When we come back to our roots we are strong and solid, and we have trust in our ability to cope with all of life. That trust can be radiated outwards to other people, and can be used in all of life’s situations.  In difficult times, people are happy to work together with one heart and one mind, as long as they can find faith or trust. Faith, trust and confidence are all one thing: the knowledge that the universe has order and can sustain justice, and that we, as microcosms of the universe, also have an inherent order and a desire for justice. When people gather in accord with others, and seek justice for everyone, as those marchers did, then the time is truly joyful.

Images of gathering together, of massing things together, mean that we work purposefully together towards some end. This is why the Commentary says,

The superior person repairs his weapons

To guard against unexpected happenings.

To repair our weapons is to put our house in order, to bring ourselves to a peak of fitness that is mental and spiritual as well as physical. When we feel good in ourselves we feel good towards the world, and when we heal ourselves we help to heal the world. Inner healing and peace are the only way we can find peace in the world. There is no way to peace – peace is the way.

September 16, 2009 at 4:40 pm 2 comments

Spiritual Almanack- August – Fullness

Hexagram 55. Feng.

feng images

Thunder
Over
Fire

Harmony and peace naturally lead to fulfilment.
Those who find harmony and peace in life will surely reap prosperity.

Do not worry
Be like the sun at noon

The image: Flourishing.

“The flowers of the pear tree have gathered and turned to fruit.”
Chen Yi

Nature has performed her miracle and transformed the flowers into fruit. The light and warmth that makes the fruit ripen ripens all of life, filling our bodies and minds with light and warmth, opening us to the truth and goodness of the universe.

Commentary:

When the sun reaches its height
Declining begins.
When the moon attains its fullness,
Waning starts.
The waxing and waning of heaven and earth
Accord with the course of time.

Our bodies, if we allow them to, will naturally stay in tune with nature and its cycles. We are also nature, human nature, and the energy cycles of the universe manifest in us. When there is a full moon we react like the tides with a rush of energy, and the new moon’s darkness contracts the tides and draws us to seek rest.

After a time of fullness and abundance, there is a natural waning and emptying, since things cannot stay full for ever, but they rise and fall just as yin gives way to yang and yang gives way to yin. This is the nature of the universe, a law of life. Yang is the same as the constant expanding force of the universe, while yin is shown in the force of gravity that contracts and holds things in.

After the fulfilment of yang there is always the contraction of yin. The days grow shorter and as night draws in the air grows cooler. But it is important to treasure and enjoy the time of fullness, and not worry about the decline. If we are humble and share our abundant and prosperous times with others, and not try to selfishly hoard them out of fear, then we spread our enjoyment widely, and increase communal harmony. This can create prosperity and abundance in the future. Real abundance means peace and joy, good health, love, the sky and sun, the sea, mountains, all the natural world and its beauties.

Yang and yin, expansion and gravity, are the same dynamics found in the solar system and in our bodies. We experience expansion when we take an inbreath and we feel contraction on the outbreath. In our bodies the rise and fall of the breath reflects the rise and fall of the sun, the moon and all natural dynamic processes.

There is a normal human desire to want the pleasureable and the abundant to continue, and this leads us to try to stop or deny loss and pain. But we need to accept and welcome decline in the same way that we want to have abundance, because profit and loss are two sides of the same yin and yang coin. To be fully human, we need to embrace loss as well as gain, since one cannot exist without the other. Rabbi Joseph Gelberman tells how his father dealt correctly with loss,

When I was a young boy in Hungary, my father taught me an important lesson. He owned a big department store, and one day while we were at the synagogue, his store was broken into, looted, and set on fire. And to make it worse, he found out it was our neighbours who did it! But it was the Sabbath and on the Sabbath you don’t talk business. So we continued with our prayers.

That night we finally talked about it. He wasn’t the least bit angry.” We have to build the store again. This is our home. What else can we do? If I lose my store and allow my blood pressure to rise, that is paying double. I don’t believe in paying twice.”

The book of Genesis tells this famous story of abundance and decline,

And it came to pass that Pharaoh dreamed; and behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And behold, seven ears thin and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the thin ears swallowed up the seven rank and full ears.

Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled, and when no one could tell him the meaning of the dream he called Joseph out of the dungeon to interpret it, and Joseph said,

The seven good ears are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind are also seven years, and they shall be seven years of famine. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land.

Joseph interpreted the dream correctly, and he advised Pharaoh to set aside a fifth of the corn from the seven good years so that there would be food available for the people during the seven lean years. We need to do the same. I failed to do it when I was in my full earning years.

The Tao Te Ching tell us ‘ Don’t try to be full’, and explains how to maintain a sufficient level of fullness, one that does not become over full and therefore topple over into its opposite- emptiness. Chapter 9 says,

Instead of pouring in more
Better stop while you can
Making it sharper
Won’t help it last longer.
Houses full of treasure can never be safe.
The vanity of success
Invites its own failure.
When your work is done, retire
That is the way of heaven

To know when to stop, to know when you have enough, is the key. When it says retire it means do not become possessed and possessive about your work and accomplishments. In other words, practice non-attachment, avoid pride and overdoing things.

If we can purify our heart and mind, and be at one with the divine, then the swings and roundabouts of fullness and emptiness, gain and loss, success and failure, abundance and scarcity will not affect us. If we only desire what we truly need, and are generous in giving away the surplus, then we are always in a state of fulfilment, a state of love naturally filled with compassion, joy, peace and light. Knowing that enough really is enough is true harmony and contentment.

August 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts Newer Posts


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories