Saturday, January 25, 2014

on magnificence

There are days when we feel really good about ourselves for whatever reason. Today was one of those days for me. I feel like I really did something good at work, something that perhaps had some significance and meaning for people in my workplace. As I lay in bed tonight I felt really good about myself. And this feeling good felt... really good.

And then the ego, in this case the ego being that capacity to make sure that it all becomes about me, I-ness and my-ness, and that feeds upon and at the same time nourishes a sense that I am better than anybody else, this ego started to creep into my thinking and into my heart. It's amazing how subtly and swiftly this ego can ingratiate itself into the business at hand, into even the best, and most selfless, parts of ourselves. How it can distort the light.  I was basking in my own magnificence. This is a warning sign to me to back up a bit, to ground myself, to try to refind or rekindle a sense of humility.

And at the same time, this basking in magnificence... well, it felt really good too. And it felt good in a way that didn't include the ego, that was existent prior to any sense of I-ness and my-ness, of conceit or egotistical self absorption.  It felt free and empowered and joyful.  It feels like running through a green and grassy sunlit field with arms spread wide and heart flung open.  It felt good.

If in fact we are, as Jesus said, the branches of which he is the vine, if in fact we are expressions of the divine as the Hindu masters tell us, if in fact we are walking vessels of Buddha nature, then isn't a sense of magnificence a part of that? Isn't basking in our own magnificence an experience that opens us to a fullness in our being that is beyond any sense of self and therefore is the bridge or fulcrum that arches between Self and Non-self?

This basking, like any opportunity to feel really good, or, in other circumstances, even to feel really bad about ourselves, can be treacherous waters fraught with the seductions of clutching to something, of becoming fixed and fixated on a self-concept, and therefore exposing ourselves to opportunity after opportunity to suffer due to a misaligned relationship with a constructed and therefore imprecise sense of identity. I am reminded of something Vi Hilbert would say. Vi, or Taqseblu as she was called in her native Lushootseed tongue of the Upper Skagit in the State of Washington, was a First Nations Elder and of such magnificence. She exuded it and drew it out of others, fanned its flames in the hearts of those who could open to it. Vi said that her parents taught her that “she was the best, she just wasn't better than anybody else.” A short statement that covers a lot of ground. And a statement that affirms that this 'being the best,'  this acknowledgement of what's beautiful within each of us, is a part of life, a common birthright, a reflection of the magnificence of life.  

Along these same lines, there is a story told about the Dalai Lama wherein someone mentioned to him the concept of low self esteem. The Dalai Lama just couldn't understand what this person was talking about and it took 30 minutes or more for people to explain to him what the term 'low self esteem' meant.

And again I am reminded of someone, Bishop Shiaku, a Buddhist monk from Japan. Part of his spiritual practice was to see the Buddha in everyone. When you entered his residence he would put his palms together near his heart and bow to you with such reverence, you felt the Buddha nature within you. It was compelling and so fulfilling. So many of us resisted it, not in the slightest knowing what to think or do about this deep recognition, a recognition of something that we are not generally given the opportunity to even be aware of yet alone acknowledge within ourselves. So it then has to be acknowledged within us by someone else.  But this didn't stop Bishop Shiaku, or Vi, or Jesus.  And perhaps something transpires in our hearts, a notion, a hint, a nudge toward a certain direction just waiting to flower.