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Of life and learning (08/22/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
The little things? Brief moments? Small accomplishments? A passing smile? Swift whispered prayers? A short visit? Lingering butterfly kisses? They aren’t little.

Zen Haiku says, “Strange how a teapot can at the same time represent the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.” Sipping tea is a source of restoration, a ritual of togetherness, or the serenity of having a tea ceremony alone for a renewed awareness of all we have. Daily ritual can bring harmony and balance into our lives.

What is the essence of life, really, but to laugh and to cry with one another, and to take care of each other? In-between times of nurturing, healing, comforting, forgiving, and loving, we mechanically perform the duties expected of us at some type of work or vocation, and seeing to domestic responsibilities.

Albert Einstein’s Three Rules of Work: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Throughout seasons of life, we experience rage, fear, pain, longing, and loss, but there is a place that is still and unmoving. Like spokes of a wheel, whirling around a hub, the still and empty center, we all become weathered and weakened. If we survive for a very long time we break away from the center of our little world, when there is nothing left but the splintered and weatherworn bones.

It is the bones that desert the soul, which is spared the stench of decay and the agony of dying; the soul never departs from glorious life!

I remember this piece of wisdom from religious education workshops years ago: “Tell me, I’ll probably forget. Show me, I might remember. Get me involved...and I’ll understand.

Many of us have books stashed away, in boxes or gathering dust on a neglected bookcase in a spare room. When hungry for a good read, one may be pleasantly surprised to discover an old friend in his or her own collection. I have several small, treasured books that I return to again and again, so I keep them handy.

It seems like their brief essays and pondered messages say many things at different times. What I need, I usually find there. These pearls of wisdom do no good hidden away, enlightening no one. “Pathways – Restful Meditations” is Zen haiku translated by Gary Crounse. Every message is brief, albeit beautiful. “A householder has many things, a monk has just a few – but even a good thing isn’t as good as nothing.” “Being able to restrict yourself to having only a few things is a great indulgence for which monks are appropriately grateful. The greatest indulgence of all, of course, is allowing yourself to have nothing...but so few of us can afford it.”

Kent Nerburn, a writer from Minnesota, is a friend of the Native American culture. In his “Simple Truths,” he writes, “Remember the words of the musician who was asked which was greater, knowledge or wisdom. ‘Without knowledge,’ he answered, ‘I could not play the violin. Without wisdom, I could not play music.’”

Alexandra Stoddard’s “Tea Celebrations” has delightful quotes on every page! She shares this metaphor by Lao-tzu: “An empty water pitcher is beautiful because it is a vessel for water, and not because of the beauty of its shape or the materials used in the making of it. The beauty lies in the vessel’s potential.”

Stoddard writes, “The steeped tea leaves are not as significant to the soul as the time and space and beauty associated with the ritual.”

“Native American Wisdom” is edited by Kristen Maree Cleary.” Their words seem simple until you understand the depth from which they arise. “When you lose the rhythm of the drumbeat of God, you are lost from the peace and rhythm of life.” –Cheyenne proverb

A single verse from the Holy Bible imparts great truth. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

The little things? They are a big deal! “One lump of sugar or two?”

Carpe diem!

Janet Burns can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com



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