When people are born they are gentle and soft.
At death they are hard and stiff.
When plants are alive they are soft and delicate.
When they die, they wither and dry up.
Therefore the hard and stiff are followers of death.
The gentle and soft are the followers of life.
Thus, if you are aggressive and stiff, you can't win.
When a tree is hard enough, it is cut. Therefore
The hard and big are lesser,
The gentle and soft are greater.
- Yi-Ping Ong, from the introduction, Tao Te Ching
"if you have faith, even if it's only as tiny as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain." Our Bible school teacher passed around a necklace with a mustard seek embedded in plastic, while she explained the power of faith. Or tried. We didn't challenge her. Those weren't the days when a child would yell out "Are you crazy. You mean you think you can just sit there and believe and the whole mountain will move?"
We lived in a town surrounded by mountains and I had never heard anyone express concern about their placement. The story made an impression, but it didn't make a lot of sense from my eight year old perspective.
I was still thinking about it when I got home and did what I always did when something didn't make sense. I asked my father. He was brilliant. He taught calculus at an engineering school, read Chaucer and Shakespeare for personal enjoyment, and did crossword puzzles in ink. He started college at 15, had 3 majors and 2 minors, and completed one of his master's degrees in French. He was one of the few adults who never talked down to me because I was a child. He made me feel he respected my opinion as much as one of his student's or another adult's.
He had an extensive vocabulary yet communicated clearly. He wasn't interested in impressing others. He was interested in learning and education.. "if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it."
My father could have been very judgmental about education and degrees, but he was concerned with learning for the joy of it. He literally lit up when given the opportunity to help others,process information. He had been a Methodist Sunday school teacher for nearly two decades, so he was well prepared for this conversation.
He explained that the mustard seed represented a spiritual point of view and the mountain represented a problem or challenge. "The mustard seed story illustrates if we have faith, we can solve our problems. It is also about taking the responsibility to believe in ourselves enough to confront our concerns."
"But," he continued, "we don't necessarily have to solve a problem. Sometimes we can move a mountain by changing our perspective. If we have faith, and stop reacting and trying to fix things, we might find that what we perceived as a mountain is a blessing in disguise. We often make things harder than they have to be by trying to control everything."
My dad used an example that made the lesson clear. I had recently been concerned that a friend was mad at me because she had been avoiding me for a couple of days. She had been planning a surprise party for me. I had been angry and hurt and began avoiding her. Later, I felt terrible.
Faith comes from inside .We don't need to prove to anyone we have it if we do. It extends beyond the faith we have in ourselves. It is about giving others, and life's circumstances,, the benefit of the doubt, and not making judgements or assumptions.
I wrote this years ago, when my brother and I joined the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Harrisburg, PA. Recently, there are events causing me to question our county's direction. Revisiting this helped shift my perspective and give me peace of mind. I hope it will do the same for you.
When I find myself becoming defensive about a 'weed', and if you've followed my blog, you know I do from time to time, it occurs to me that it's probably time to seek help! Hahahaha! This time the plant I'm defending is poke. My friend Carrie has no empathy for the stand I'm taking because it's taking over her garden and yard, but as always, she's patient with my idiosyncrasies.
My expectation certainly isn't that people nurture and cultivate it. Actually, the plant has done well on its own for centuries without any coddling from gardeners. It's just that anytime the wrath directed at a plant eliminates the appreciation for its benefits - and it does have benefits - my first instinct is to guide them to look from another perspective.
Polk Salad Annie
Tony Joe White
If some of ya'll never been down south too much
I'm gonna tell you a little bit about this
So that you'll understand what I'm talkin' about
Down there we have a plant that grows out in the woods
And in the fields looks somethin' like a turnip green
And everybody calls it polk salad, polk salad
Used to know a girl lived down there
And she'd go out in the evenings and pick her a mess of it
Carry it home and cook it for supper
'Cause thats about all they had to eat, but they did all right
Down in Louisiana, where the alligators grow so mean
There lived a girl, that I swear to the world
Made the alligators look tame
Polk salad Annie, polk salad Annie
Everybody said it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A mean vicious woman)
Everyday ?for supper time, she'd go down by the truck patch
And pick her a mess of polk salad, and carry it home in a tow sack
Polk salad Annie, the gators got your granny
Everybody says it was a shame
Cause her momma was a workin' on the chain gang
(A wretched, spiteful, straight-razor totin' woman
Lord have Mercy, pick a mess of it)
Illustrated Journal Page - Poke
The berries above are colored with poke ink - beautiful variations from pinks to purples.
Prosperity is not in what you have attained,
but rather in what you give away...
for it is only when you become empty
that you can be filled with something greater.
There are so many things underway right now that my head is spinning! All are in varied stages of completion - many close to being finalized but just not there! I feel like I'm living in a Jackson Pollock painting!
My current situation reminds me of a theory I heard years ago about a mirror. A fraction of an inch below the surface of a mirror, everything is complete and utter chaos. Yet moving forward that minute fraction is all it takes to have everything come together with complete clarity! And I am undoubtedly moving forward!
As always, everything is as it should be. The world is abundant with love and miracles, joy and bliss.
If waters are placid, the moon will be mirrored perfectly. If we still ourselves, we can mirror the divine perfectly. But if we engage solely in the frenetic activities of our daily involvements, if we seek to impose our own schemes on the natural order, and if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in self-centered views, the surface of our waters becomes turbulent. Then we cannot be receptive to Tao.
There is no effort that we can make to still ourselves. True stillness comes naturally from moments of solitude where we allow our minds to settle. Just as water seeks its own level, the mind will gravitate toward the holy. Muddy water will become clear if allowed to stand undisturbed, and so too will the mind become clear if it is allowed to be still.
- Deng Ming-Dao, from 365 Tao, Daily Meditations
It's unsettling that there are such contrasting perceptions about Baltimore, a city I've grown to love. Yesterday I read a disturbing article detailing the police corruption through the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF). The article ended by saying "Baltimore can't run a school, a police department or even a zoo".
Admittedly, there is truth in that statement, and yet it disturbs me to see only one side of multifaceted city, so rich with warm and wonderful people, history, inventions, gardens and parks music and the arts . . . . It reminds me of a fable I read years ago.
The Blind Men and the Elephant
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!