paying respect

25.5.11

I attended the TEDxDoiSuthep conference this weekend. The keynote speaker, at least in my mind was female Buddhist monk Dhammananda Bikkun.

She talked about nourishing roots. The four elements: earth, water, fire and air. Nourishing our selves. Specifically, about the aspect of Buddhism that deals with paying respect to our elders and past. Thich Nhat Hanh said it this way, we are the extension of our parents.

As an Asian American, paying respect to my parents had been engrained in me. Hence my tribute to them in my writing. I'm endlessly fascinated by their stories and continueously chasing down who my father was. I suppose it could have gone the other way though, I could have felt a great distain towards my family because respect had been preached to me almost every day.

But it didn't go the other way. And when I thought about paying respect to the past, I thought about how I needed to do so in order to be more fully in the present. It sounds like an oxymoron but I assure you life is blooming with them and it doesn't make it any less true.

Suddenly all of this rehashing of my Waldorf/educational history was validated in a slightly different context. Another layer of fabric had been laid down to rest over the now dead body of my past existence. And I felt the joy that comes from knowning you were right to listen to your intuition.

I also focused on Dhammananda Bikkun's words “roots” and “nourishing”. I sensed something clicking into place. Whatever you pay attention to is what you are nourishing. A seeming quite simple statement but how often do we forget to pay attention to our health, our husband or our heart's desires.

I mean I feel like I neglect parts of my life all the time. But instead of focusing on the neglect, like so many do with the crucifixion of Christ, I'd rather remember to focus on the resurrection. I think it makes a sharp difference to focus on what you want rather than what you don't want. It's the not so subtle difference between rejection and release.

In other words, when a door closes are you bitter over the closed door or do you see another possibility? Do you go looking for the door that opens?

In the past, I made the choice to feel rejected from Trembling Trees. I knew the release was part of the program but I didn't feel good about it. Why did I want to be part of a school that kicked me out? Why do I want to be liked by a guy who doesn't like me? Or why do I want to be loved by those who don't love me back? I don't know but it's a very annoying human emotion.

Instead of feeling rejected and holding on to those all too frequent no moments, why don't I chose to feel like I've been given permission to do something else?

There is an eurythmy play that we performed at the end of our teacher training year. I guess all this thinking about nourishing roots made me think of trees and well, this play called, The Little Fir Tree by Friedrich Ruckert. Maybe it was a coincidence that I was casted as the little fir tree. Then again, maybe not.

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The Little Tree Who Wanted Different Leaves by Friedrich Ruckert

The play opens with a little fir tree center stage surrounded by tall trees and an old maple. There was not much for the little fir tree to see being the small french fry of the forest but if it looked straight up it could see a patch of sky and a bright star.

In the fall the leaves from the other trees would cover its bare branches and this would make the tree very happy but this did not last.

In the winter the snow would cover the little fir tree and it would be very pleased but this too did not last.

Then in the spring, the little fir tree noticed the maple tree sprouting new leaves. At night the tree gazed longingly at the bright star and cried, “Oh, I wish, how I wish I could have fresh green leaves!”

When the little fir tree woke up in the morning and saw it was covered with brand new leaves, it was excited and shouted, “Look at me!”

The other trees stared down and wondered what the fuss was all about.

As the little fir tree proudly displayed its new leaves a farmer and his goat spied the fresh new leaves on the little tree and the goat nibbled all of its leaves.

Once again the little tree was bare and thin and very sad. When night fell it looked up at the star and prayed, “Oh, I wish, how I wish I had leaves of glass. No one could eat those.” Then the tree fell asleep.

Much to the surprise of the little fir tree it woke up to find that it had little leaves of glass!

“Look at me!” The little fir tree proudly displayed and shook its glass leaves which made a pleasing tinkling sound.

“Look at me!” The tree shouted.

The other trees looked down and wondered what that tinkling sound is?

When night fell a storm blew in and all of the little fir tree’s glass leaves fell down and broke on the ground. The little tree was once again bare and very, very sad.

The next evening the little fir tree stared up at that bright shinning star and said, “Oh, I wish, how I wish I had leaves of gold. Gold leaves won’t break and no one will eat them.”

In the morning the little fir tree woke up to find it had gold leaves! Gold leaves!

“Look at me!” The tree shouted with glee, “Look at me!”

The rest of the trees looked down and wondered. One of them said, “I thought we always had a little fir tree down there.”

The maple looked at the tree’s gleaming gold leaves and checked its own leaves but they were still leafy green.

All day the little fir tree stood proud and pleased, so happy it was until a salesman walked by and said, “What’s this?”

He walked closer to the tree, plucked a leaf and bit into it, “Gold? I can’t believe it!” Laughing at his amazing luck, he quickly looked around then started to grab as many leaves as his hands could hold stuffing them into his pockets and suitcase until all of the little fir tree’s gold leaves were gone.

The little fir tree was bare and sad. When night fell and the tree saw the bright star it quietly said, “Oh I wish, how I wish I had my fir needles back. That’s all I wish.” Then the tree cried itself to sleep.

The next morning, there was a little fir tree growing in the shelter of the big, tall trees.

“Look at me!” The tree shouted, laughing with joy. “Look at me.”

The tall fir trees and the maple tree looked down and wondered – for all they could see was a little fir tree.

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