Thursday, February 16, 2012

Green Spirituality

readers will have noticed a down-tick in the number of posts here. There are a few reasons for this. First off, my offline life has been extremely rich over the past few months. Some of this richness has been challenging, but overall, the abundance of the world has been palpable and my gratitude for that has been unwavering. Secondly, I have been writing an essay looking at, among other things, how the physical environments we tend to practice Zen and yoga in reflect the general disconnection many of us have with the planet. The essay will be a part of a book being co-edited by two yoga bloggers that should be coming out later this year. I will share more details on that when they are official.

During the process of writing the essay, I experienced a major block and eventually recognized that the very form of the essay itself - a rational, point by point approach - was reflecting the very issues I was writing about. And while the the finished product will still have a fair amount of that kind of structure, it also includes a lot of personal stories and anecdotes. If I had a larger space to work with, such as book-length, perhaps I would have experimented much more with form.
Because that needs to be happening more regularly. Experimenting. Trying to touch different places within readers.

Frankly, I am coming to believe that we have reached the limits of the analytical, logical approach to understanding. More precisely, the limits of relying on it as the sole or even dominant approach. As I wrote my first draft of the essay, I kept thinking "Where is the wildness here? Where are the weeds? The trickster animals?" And I was asking myself questions like "How can the form itself bring in those missing elements?"

Much of what I see out there as spiritual writing is compartmentalized. Poetry in one corner for a taste of wildness and the unsayable. Memoir to touch the heart with what usually is a carefully constructed story. Well reasoned essay or blog post to examine critical issues, conflicts, or teachings. Interviews that sometimes cross boundaries like these, but which often are cut, edited, or over directed in certain directions by the interviewers.

I'm seeing something similar occurring in the ways many of us make collective decisions. Sitting at Occupy meetings, or in our Zen center board meetings - I have been noticing the headiness of it all. The way certain kinds of talking are privileged. The way we all sit around tables or in chairs and barely move for an hour or two or even more. The way even consensus itself is so often a rational, verbal agreement that ignores the body language, emotional status, wild parts of human and non-human stories, and whatever else is present.

Trying to use language to express all that I am/have been experiencing, becoming more aware of, is failing - but in the failing, I'll offer something I hope.

How do we heal our relationship with the Earth and ultimately with ourselves - since there is no separation? How can anyone speak of enlightenment without also being a life in tandem with the mountains and rivers, crows and dandelions?

In other words, the earth isn't compartmentalized and neither are any of our lives really. Intellectually, some of us know this. Now what?


Ji Hyang said...

excellent, excellent!

thank you for your creative insight.

Anonymous said...

I've been really chewing on Dogen's Valley Sounds and Mountain Colors (Keisei Sanshoku)! I'm not sure if you're familiar with it, but it's about how rocks, trees, streams and mountains all teach buddha dharma, which may sound obvious, but it brings up some questions...

If they teach buddha dharma, they must have buddha nature, and if they have buddha nature, are they conscious?

And if you buy the mind-only yogacara view, good lord!

Would love to know where we can find the book! Congratulations!

Nathan said...

Is that another version of Dogen's Mountains and Rivers sutra? I have studied that one.

I'll get the book details out when they are finalized.

Katie Loncke said...

Well said. I've been wondering about this lately, too: feeling that my writing is SO analytical, so flat (where did the fun of language go?), and that this reflects my sense of Urgency and Seriousness, attempts to investigate Reality and help solve Real Problems. But as you say, wildness and irrationality are just as much a part of reality. Our movements suffer if we don't remember this. But so often art is seen as 'merely decorative' or, at best, therapy that helps us Do The Real Work Better.

Anonymous said...

Hey Nathan,

Nope, it's separate. Sort of similar, but then, I've not really studied the mountains and rivers fascicle- Just read it by accident trying to prepare for the Genzo-e ON Valley Sounds and Mountain Colors!