Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breathing in Cosmic Elegance

Later this morning I'll be meeting with some folks at our local congregational church to discuss an upcoming retreat on the topic of practicing faith in the midst of our often chaotic lives.

I've been thinking a lot about this subject over the last few days, trying to be attentive to my own efforts in this area and wondering what could be said in three hours that could help make a difference in someone else's life.

And at the same time I have embarked on this Miksang adventure with my Miksang classmate, Joyce; taking on a new element of photography each week and pursuing it as a concentration. This week our subject is "Line," and yesterday afternoon I spent some time wandering around my immediate neighborhood in search of Line.

I wasn't particularly encouraged by the images I was collecting, but fortunately my new (used) copy of Chogyam Trungpa's book, Dharma Art, arrived in the mail yesterday, so I was reading it this morning to see what new insights it had to offer. What I am learning from my initial reading is the importance of approaching my art with confidence, wakefulness, and an awareness of cosmic elegance, of the rightness of things.

I took that awareness -- both of the challenges of maintaining a spiritual life in the midst of chaos, and of dharma art -- with me into my meditation practice this morning, and for some reason found myself mentally contemplating the image of a celtic cross. Suddenly it all came together in a flash of insight: The cross -- without the circle -- represents all the directions we feel stretched in our chaotic lives: there is the pull of the past and the worry of the future on the horizontal axis, and there is the tension between staying connected to spirit and yet fully grounded in our daily lives on the vertical axis. The circle is all that surrounds us in the moment, the stresses, the to-do lists, the people and activities that create that sense of swirling chaos.

But the way to stay centered -- to rest comfortably and productively at the intersection of the two crossbars and the center of that swirling circle -- is the way of dharma art: to stay confident that whatever we are doing will be the best we can do; to remain fully awake and aware, present in the moment, so we can act wisely; and to know beyond all shadow of doubt the cosmic elegance and rightness of whatever situation we are experiencing; to see that each moment is bringing us exactly what we need, and to accept the goodness and beauty of that.

It's a tall order, of course, and one I rarely fill. But somehow combining the understanding of the cross and the attitude of dharma art I began to see both how this retreat might begin to take shape. It also helped me understand how the images I collected yesterday -- like this one, of the side of my neighbor's boat -- might have intrinsic value. It doesn't matter if they are good or bad, better or worse than someone else's images. What matters is that they are reflections, taken attentively, of particular times and places that have a unique beauty all their own. And that's a good thing.

And so I stand at the center of the cross, watchful, confident, and rejoicing in the beauty of the moment, and just breathe.


Joyce Wycoff said...

Wow! Do I love the term cosmic elegance and the image of the celtic cross imagery is very powerful. Great stuff as always.

Maureen said...

That image is wonderful. I like how the color is broken up and intersected and splotched, and there's that gold-ish texture toward the top, like some kind of cross-weave. I almost wish you hadn't disclosed that it's the side of a boat.