Spirituality is difficult for us to touch because it flows to and from the invisible, from love and the mystery of death. It comes out of the “meltdown” that we know as love and compassion and the surrender that we know as death. It flows from the ground of our relationship, not only between human beings, but also between all beings, including mountains and rivers. It is often born from suffering, and it evokes within us compassion, which allows us to see through the eyes of innumerable beings.
Joan Halifax A Buddhist Life in America: Simplicity in the Complex
(New York, Paulist Press, 1998: pp 44-5)
I’ve never had a particularly good memory. I know people who have vivid recollections from when they were three years old, and some say even earlier. I’m moderately confident pretty much all my earliest memories are in fact constructs of family stories told over and over until they’ve imprinted as “my” own.
These days I’m aware of the slippage, where a name that should come immediately does not. Like many people of my age I’ve worried about dementia. And, some years ago I even went so far as to go to Harvard Medical’s memory unit to get checked out. They were comforting, sort of. They let me know I’m quite smart. They said I have deficits, but suggested these probably have been in place for my whole life. And they assured me memory does indeed begin to slip away even without dementia.
Since I was a small child I’ve been aware of the fragility of life. Lots of reasons. Environment, of course. I came out of a poor and chaotic family situation, where we never lived anywhere two years running. But, there’s something else, as well. Something I seem to have come into this world with. A sense of that tentativeness, of that passingness to all things.So, eventually, it would seem inevitably I found my way to Buddhism. As it became my own and claimed me, it would be of a rationalist flavor and influenced by my other great passion in this lifetime, Unitarian Universalism. But, if I had to say what my spirituality was in one word, that word would be Buddhist.
I consider my memories as they rise and I notice some as they fall, others I’m just aware of because of the gap that now exists. Gaps. It all slips away…
I’m quite fond of Joan Halifax. Fellow pilgrim on the great way, exploring of the contours of the heart and mind, and, somehow she landed in a style of Buddhism not that dissimilar to my own. She is enough similar and at the same time coming from sufficient distance that her observations can at times both tantalize and confuse. In particular I find myself considering that passage I’ve begun this small meditation with.
I think about that dawn of our spirituality in our suffering. Yours and mine. Ours. I think of that mystery which encompasses all our life, the darkness before birth, the wall at the end through which we each of us inevitably will find our own door. Mystery piled upon mystery.
And all along the way love. Love as many things. Desire. Hope. Dream. Lots of dreams. Some my own. Some other people’s. Some, I’m pretty sure dreamt by the world itself.
And there I wonder who owns the dreams? Who owns the memories? A name? A mountain? The great ocean?
The memories of the innumerable beings.