Friday, June 16, 2017

Touched by Angels

God, was I lonely! 

And I’m never lonely, except for loss of partner. I can always shake off any blues, go outside, connect with green or put on those dancing shoes and glide away from pain. Suffering? Not me. I’m the healer, the one who eases suffering, the one with all the answers…

Ha! The antidote to that sort of arrogance is going on a year-long solo world-wide trip! That’s right. Just get out of any illusion of comfort-zone. Give up the guy, the kids, the dog, the plants, the friends, the stuff, the town, the yard, the schedule… give it all up and get on the unfamiliar road, with no plans except the knowing that this is what you are supposed to do at this phase of life. Stop being a “house-holder” and start being a wandering Saddhu. Not exactly with a begging bowl—more like too much luggage and lots of credit cards—but still the road never taken…
I knew it would be hard. But after only a few days???

The only constant it appears is my grandson’s phone call each night. He is on the autistic spectrum so the conversation is more or less the same and doesn’t include questions about my life. But it is connection and full of genuine love.

So, what to do with pain? 

Bow to it? Thank it? At the Museum of Communism in Prague a video showed the violence of 1969 and the final victory over the Russians in 1989. In the background played the song by protest song-writer Karel Kayla (watch video with the link) and the phrase--“Thank you for the pain for it teaches me to question.” So, to question “What to do with the pain?” 

Watch "Velvet Revolution: Dekuji? Thank You, Karel Kayla

As I strolled Wenceslaus Square and wrote of freedom there was celebration yes of the overcoming of Communism but I still felt a darkness – a hanging on memory of those heavy hungry oppressive times. Unable to shake it off I sat in the Church of Our Lady of the Snows. Beautiful Gothic high vaulted ceilings. Two women in front started chanting – apparently their job—and worshippers joined in. The rhythm of Czech, the cadence of faith was reassuring – knowing that it was here that people brought their suffering. Christ is about relief. All around were motifs of angels. One statue I could swear sprouted dingy ostrich feather wings. And that angel was staying the sword-wielding hand of an angry man. Above, angels welcomed Mary into heaven.


 Angels, angels, angels … 

Like the higher realm that I aspire to in meditation. Not a place to stay but to touch and know and trust. Thich Nhat Hahn, the  Zen Buddhist master I have studied with, calls it the “water” and the world of change the “waves”. He says you have to know and have one foot in the Ultimate Dimension (the formless spiritual) in order to live in the Historical dimension (the world of change, or suffering.) That the ever changing world of form, the waves, is of course composed of the unchanging essence, the water. Ah yes, but how to practice this? And how to feel it on the journey?
The angels… ah yes. Others pray to them, see them, call them by name. Just fluff to me, the erst-while Methodist turned more or less Buddhist. Not too tangible.

Still suffering, yes actually sobbing because I miss my dog’s warm solid body next to me, his goofy dog-breath smile, his constancy, I took myself to a concert at the Church of the Tyn. Standing in the line for the WC I noticed a woman’s T shirt that proclaimed—“Everything you hate, drop it!” I UIKEYINPUTUPARROWyearned to do just that! And the Church? Gorgeous! Gold everywhere, High ceilings. (Uncomfortable pew with a ridge at the back that keeps you from leaning back and certainly from falling asleep. The Zen masters would love this!) And the music started. I don’t know one classical composer from another. Ave Maria and a few frequently played “tunes” were familiar. The acoustics were amazing—1300 century surround-sound. The 7 piece string orchestra standing in front of us were the most perfect and happy and spot-on that I’ve ever heard. I could feel their joy in the playing! And the opera singer – alternately sublime and tragic—reminding me that loneliness, pain, suffering, loss, betrayal – whatever—is the stuff of opera. 

And the angels. Yes the angels were there. All around. In the oil paintings, the statue way up there above everything—so high that the camera couldn’t do it justice—high above Mary’s ascension —high above our pain. A purely sweet place of abode. Uplifting, you might say of the concert. Removing us from the hub-but of Old Town Square and the shirtless English drunks and the Sven The Swede juggling acts and the no place to call home sadness. High above it all, looking down with beneficence, ready to touch our hearts and remind us to ascend, to stay our hands from violence, are the angels.

I may have paid for a concert. But in the exquisite melodies of strings, I was touched by angels.

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