Saturday, October 24, 2009

Haunted Activity

When I cam upon this tree a few months ago, I couldn't help but stop and take a few pictures of it. With its bare limbs raised in the air, and almost everything around it dead as well, it's the perfect image of our repetitive, habit driven minds.

Chan Master Sengcan, in his great dharma poem Xinxinming, wrote "When you try to stop activity, your very efforts fill you with activity."

So, we have a quandary, don't you think? There's the mind dipping back into the past over and over again, bringing forth the same old muck, same old ways of acting and believing. And then there's this line, reminding us that suppression only brings more activity - and I'd say haunted activity at that.

Take a haunted house. How the spirit of someone that lived there, or spent time there in the past, now clings to the walls and floorboards, unable to let go of whatever it was that had happened there. Having no peace itself, the ghost fills the entire house, and everyone in it with dis-ease. It's a miserable existence, being trapped between incarnations, and also caught between the desire for liberation and the itchiness of recreating old misery.

In a way, all of us are like this at least some of the time. Some old event or dysfunctional way of acting or thinking arises and, instead of breathing into it and letting it be as it is, we pour ourselves into it, until we become like a forest filled with dead trees.

It's so easy to fall for it, to believe that whatever is arising is real, solid, requiring that we either indulge it or pound it dead into the ground. Maybe it's time to try a new approach, if only to lean towards liberating the ghost from it's haunted house.

Halloween is almost here. Will you be the one who smiles at the passing array of costumed children? Or will you feel a twinge of anxiety when the little ghosts and goblins arrive at your door, looking for candy?


Adam said...

awesome picture!

and nice, contemplative post.

I'm still unsure as to what ghosts really are. I've seen them, witnessed their phenomenon, but have no explanation for what they are. Maybe a part of a person that became so fixated on a moment that that part of them became stuck. Who knows?

Nathan said...

Hey Adam,

Yeah, I can't say I know what ghosts are either. I, too, have felt their presence in a few places - yet they're definitely not graspable. Of course, what is graspable really?


spldbch said...

Wow -- wonderful metaphors! I love the way you tie everything together -- the tree, ghosts, haunted houses, clinging to thoughts. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Spooky... I'm having pareidolia... I'm seeing a face on the tree!!!

I'm skeptical about ghosts, at least in the Hollywood movies sense, but I do believe that places certainly have a "feel" to them, what my friend calls lingering energies. I look at it as a continuing effect of karma, what ever was there in action certainly isn't going to stop abruptly.