Category Archives: Belief
I wrote this post in December 2012. I’m re-posting it now, because some of us might have to re-consider our “cats.”
Are you trapped in your traditions? Do they serve you, or do you serve them?
I pondered this question after reading a Paulo Coelho blog piece about an ancient Japanese story, which I will paraphrase here:
A great Zen Buddhist master had a cat. The cat was his constant companion even during the meditation classes he led. When the old master passed away, another disciple took his place and continued to allow the cat to join in meditation. When the original cat died, the disciples missed its presence, so they found another.
Disciples from other regions heard about the cat who attended meditation classes, and spread the story around to others. These disciples believed that the cat was the reason for the greatness of the Zen Buddhist master. Other temples began to bring cats to class.
Eventually, writings began to appear about the importance of cats during meditation. A university professor studied the issue and wrote a thesis about the effects of cats on concentration and energy. Disciples began to believe that cats were essential to meditation.
Soon, an instructor who was allergic to cats decided to remove the animal from his daily classes. Other disciples were aghast and reacted negatively, believing the cat to be essential to their success. But his students made the same progress even without the cat.
Generations passed and, one by one, monasteries began removing cats from meditation. After all, it was a burden feeding all those cats. In fact, students began to study the benefits of meditating without animals. More time passed until “cat,” or “no cat” was no longer a matter of consideration. But it took many years for the full cycle, because “during all this time, no one asked why the cat was there.”
Christmas is one of the most tradition-bound times of the year. Christmas trees, shortbread, gifts, overspending on gifts, turkey, family gatherings, family fights, church services, candles, crèches, Santa, pageants, parties with too much rum eggnog, carols . . . These things have been part of our current version of the holidays for so long we have started to believe that Christmas is not Christmas without them. If we were to suggest not including them, people would react with aghast negativity.
Why are those “cats” in the room? Is feeding them becoming a burden?
Christmas means different things to different people. For me, it recalls the birth of a compassionate movement toward “all is one.” It recalls the birth of a man—an activist—who sought social justice and lived the idea that every person contains the divine spark.
As I meditate my way toward Christmas this year, whether I invite some of those “cats” to join me or not, the movement toward “all is one” by all of us divine sparks continues regardless.
“Something unknown is doing we don’t know what.” —Sir Arthur Eddington, British physicist
I read the quote above in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was one way magic appeared in my life over a Christmas season replete with the word. At noisy parties, we talked about people with magical personalities. At informal gatherings with friends, conversations turned how children fully embrace the magic of Christmas. We went to see the enchanting, magical theatre production The Wizard of Oz. At our Christmas dinner, the crackers contained magic tricks.
It was almost magical how the universe led me to ponder magic.
Of course, each of those things has a rational, logical explanation. People don’t really have magical personalities; some people are just more outgoing and charismatic than others. Children do embrace the magic of Christmas, but there is no man coming down the chimney. The Wizard of Oz? Please. We all know we have to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. And to perform magic with our cracker prizes at Christmas dinner, we each had to know the secret behind the “trick.”
There is a rational, logical explanation. Except when there isn’t. Something unknown is doing something we can’t figure out.
In her book, Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to allow some of that unexplainable magic into our lives. Why not? Doing so opens doors instead of closing them. Doing so might lead to some “Wow” moments. Doing so is just way more fun.
Tomorrow is Epiphany—a good day to open the door to Big Magic. It just might be fun.
I am writing this post early in the morning on Monday, October 19. It’s federal election day here in Canada, but I don’t know yet what’s going to happen. The polls haven’t even opened in my region. When I finish writing, I will pre-schedule this post to run tomorrow morning when the results are in and people will either be mourning or celebrating. I don’t yet know what’s going to happen, but I do know this.
“The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
All shall be well.
No matter what happens, all shall be well.
If you invested your whole being in the Conservative party, and they will not form the next government, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is the sure and certain leader for our country, but the Liberals did not win enough seats, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you live and breathe the politics of the New Democratic Party, but Thomas Mulcair’s NDP candidates did not show well, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Stephen Harper is a megalomaniac who holds too tightly the reins of his ministers and the public service and does not respect human rights, but the people of Canada voted his party back into power, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is just not ready, but the votes carried him into the footsteps of his father as prime minister of this country, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Elizabeth May is a fine candidate and her Green party has the potential to re-shape our country in a positive way, but the Greens still didn’t manage to gain any political headway, it’s okay. All shall be well.
I have close friends in all of those camps. Close friends of mine live and breathe the politics of vastly different parties. I love all those people. Not a one of them is evil incarnate.
That’s how I know that all shall be well.
Since confederation, this country has been led by either Liberal or Conservative prime ministers. Collectively they shaped this country into, what I believe is, the finest democracy in the world. Each one of them changed us for the better in some way. Each one of them made mistakes.
In between elections, the parties not in power raged about the travesties of the governing party. They ranted about what they would change. After all the bluster though, when changes in government happened, the new governing party kept what worked—even if they had raged against it—and changed what didn’t.
My diverse friends, although they approach it from different directions, are all driven by the same ideal: the building and maintenance of a great democracy.
I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was right. Events which, at first blush, appear horrific or unjust, often lead to a greater good.
“The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” All shall be well.