When I wake up, the sky is blue. The sky is blue like a rose is a rose is a rose. And on the grey days like this, when I wake up, I see clouds. I keep my mind joyful. Still – the sky is the sky. It is like a joke played upon me. And if I am at peace with myself, I laugh.
“Always maintain only a joyful mind” is part of 59 slogans in Lojong or mind training. That is a practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Studying the slogans is a method to transform mind. Although this slogan in the sequence of presentation is somewhere near the middle of this collection, I think it is very helpful even at the beginning of the training. I would even say it is a perfect starter for every new day, so that you can start with light-hearted attitude.
As horizontal sun beams exposed the veins of leaves and turned them into miniature translucent maps full of tiny forking paths that invited to the unknown yet welcoming and warm world of yellow shades, it was already weeks past the autumn equinox far up in North. Illusory warmth of the Indian-summer was about to leave us unprepared for the dead, cold months ahead.
Our steps softly sunk into fallen foliage. The medieval castle up the hill was unreachable and covered in shallow mist. Moments ago, we ashed a joint under a majestic ash tree, the axis mundi of our kin, where my grandfather’s ashes scattered years ago and now perhaps soaked up by the roots of this giant tree of trees or woven into humble petals of purple anemones growing in its generous shade. We were lost in our own thoughts as we walked, and the only sounds were rustling leaves and murmuring river.
I thought about my grandmother who had died years before my grandfather and had chosen the more traditional burial mode according to local trends in this century and was resting in peace at an unambitious rural graveyard among agricultural fields some three kilometers North East from the ash tree. It happened to be an area of most fertile soil and a body without a coffin buried six feet deep would have decomposed fairly soon, there might have been only a skeleton left by now. But we had a long history of burials in coffins that adds both veneration and time to our last rite of passage. So the molecules and the star-dust might still be trapped inside a neatly carved coffin as I was raking the leaves six feet above it some ten years later. Continue reading “Autumn retreat: on ancestry, death and love”