Breakthrough (repost)


Autumn Wind in Gemstone Trees, Tang Dynasty, China

In late summer, heaven’s breath is damply hot.
It smothers the earth with dullness.
Suddenly, thick clouds gather:
A wave of polar air passes like a frigid rake.
Acorns fall like bullets,
And a new wind breaks through.

When the air is hot and humid, there is a feeling of dullness and stagnation. Everyone is oppressed by lassitude. As the seasons begin changing, fresh air comes from the arctic. Clouds that have been building up begin to dispense rain, and damp air is exchanged for fresh, cool breezes. At night, the heavens are changing so quickly that lightening flashes from colliding clouds, and thunder heralds the revolving of the skies.

The same is true of human life. If the heavens cannot endure stagnation for long, how can stagnation last with us? If we find ourselves blocked and frustrated in life, we must look for the inevitable outlet. Nothing is permanent, so how can our obstacles last? We need to look for the first opportunity to set things moving again.

On the other hand, sometimes stagnation comes from our own laziness or incompetence. In this case, then it is we who must show initiative and stimulate a breakthrough in dull circumstances. As soon as we see a chance, we must act. Unless we engage ourselves and events fully, we cannot expect to act sufficiently.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“What you really want for yourself is always trying to break through, just as a cooling breeze flows through an open window on a hot day. Your part is to open the windows of your mind.” — Vernon Howard

“Oh, my God, this amazing cool breeze is coming through my window and the sun is shining. I’m happy.” — Liv Tyler

“O sweet September, the first breezes bring the dry leaf’s rustle and the squirrel’s laughter, the cool fresh air whence health and vigor spring and promise of exceeding joy hereafter.” — George Arnold

“We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things… but there are times when we stop. We sit sill. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” — James Carroll

“I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” — Nicholas Sparks

I’ve been fighting my obstacles and stagnation for a while now, waiting for this to happen and that to happen, to have time, I tell myself. For what, I don’t really know. But, I have time, I just don’t have motivation. I need to get back to my art, back to my reading projects and writing. Yes, I can open the windows now and feel the cool breezes of autumn beginning to blow, feel how refreshingly cool and crisp the air is becoming. And it is energizing, to some extent. I still seem stuck in my laziness, though, my tiredness. The mundane tasks of life get done, but not much else, nothing really grand or wonderful. But then, I have to come back to the Zen saying:

“Before enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.
After enlightenment – eat rice, clean bowl.”

Perhaps, like children, we simply need to realize the grand and wonderful in everyday things – the flowers, the animals, the poetry of life, our daydreams, the sunsets and breezes. Is there really anything so much more wonderful than that?

This is a poem I write a few years ago, inspired by my own children:

Choices

There isn’t black or white
Anymore today,
I suddenly woke up
To a thousand shades of gray.
I’ve lost the either/or,
And now forever more
I will know there is more
I have yet to explore.

I looked into your eyes
And I saw the past
And then I realized
It goes much too fast.
You’re not a child now
I’ll turn around and how
You’ll have grown
And have flown
And I’ll never have known.

I’ve got to find a way
To make this moment stay!
I’ve got to find the time
To really make it mine.
I look behind me and it’s gone
I’ve got to carry on
And find the path
That takes me back…

It’s there in your eyes
It’s such a surprise
To see the world again
As if it were new!
The joy that you show to me
Now you have set me free
And I see that at last
I can reach to the past.

And so I carry on
With the chores today,
But somehow now I know
There is more to say.
I’ll find my voice again
I’ll have a choice again
You have shown my how
I know even now.

That life is what you make it –
The chance is there so take it!
And when you turn around,
Then at last you’ve found
There’s an open door
Into nevermore …
But what you’ve done here
Will not disappear.