Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Self-Cleaning Pottery

Several weeks ago I sent my teacher Hogen an artist trading card I'd made. It has the quote from Rumi on the back, that bit that has had me thinking and meditating around it since CK gave me the book for my birthday!


Step off
proudly into sunlight,
not looking back.

Take sips of this pure wine being poured.

Don't mind that you've been given a dirty cup.

It has been useful to consider myself as the cup and the various abusive moments in my life as the stains of the cup. The imagery has become a way to see that in being caught up in the stains I'm entirely not present to the pure wine being poured, not able to appreciate my life. When I am stuck in the pain, and the habitual reactions around it, it is like drinking the wine while complaining about the cup.

When I sent the trading card to Hogen I enclosed it inside of a beautiful card with koi painted on it. Faced with the blank interior of the inside of this card my mind rushed to put something, anything that might sound like I'm a decent student. In that speedy awkwardness I wrote down something about practice being a way of cleaning the stains of the cup.

Only it isn't. I'm totally wrong in thinking that. Believing that if I just practice hard enough I can somehow clean the stains. I can't make history go away, it is impossible. It is falling into the trap of hoping that Zen or Yoga are somehow a kind of self-improvement program that will make the past not matter.

I'm missing the point. The point is to not care about the stains, not to find some way to clean the up. This wondrous, present moment is the pure wine of life. The cup holds the wine, why in hell do I care if it has stains?

On Sunday I was hanging out after the retreat, a busy time when Great Vow gets even quieter as residents head into their day off or to attend events in Portland. I happened to catch Hogen as he prepared to head into town and mentioned what I'd realized about practice. That what I'd first written him was wrong because I still cared about the stains if I was hoping practice would clean them. I told him that the whole point is for me to not care about the stains anymore.

He smiled at me, nodded and commented that the real point is that when I no longer care about the stains then the cup will clean itself.

I had to laugh to myself as he walked off, considering the aspiration to become self-cleaning pottery.

All that and a haiku for late winter!

Late winter sunshine
Inspires flowers to burst forth.
"Spring comes!" they assert.

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