Ordination

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IMG_1581download-1IMG_1625IMG_1583download-3This week my brother and sister-in-law to be were ushered into the formal realm of Zen Buddhist monkhood. The Shukke Tokudo ceremony marked a rite of passage in their spiritual journeys as well as showered those of us present with an 82 generation fold transmission of ancient teachings. Nine practitioners took formal Shukke Tokudo vows, thus inducted into the 83rd generation of a profound spiritual lineage.

Shukke Tokudo marks the “Leaving Home to Take or Enter the Way.” My brother and Brooke thus enter a vast tradition of Zen Buddhist monkhood and priesthood, this moment of ordination marking a deepening on the journey of their chosen path. For months I’ve witnessed their slow stitchings into their hand sewn okesas, black robes representing the Buddha’s robes which they wore for the first time during the ceremony (the layers of robes serve as an ever-present invitation for absolute awareness and mindfulness, lest one becomes tangled and trips!).

Ordination is ultimately (and anciently) an ‘act of conferring holy orders,‘ and reminded me of the gravity of spiritual responsibilities: the intense commitment to integrity, the invitation to let go again and again of clinging and attachment to the Self, the injunction to profoundly serve and support others, and the yoking of oneself to a formal path. This moment marked the most profound gesture of yoking as well as leads me to the older roots of what ‘religion’ points to: the word deriving from religare: to bind fast. (Incidentally, c.1200 the word referred to “a state of life bound by monastic vows”). Similar to the careful stitches sewn into their robes, so too will these vows weave their way through their lives from here forward: A way of life. A gesture of embodiment of sacred teachings. A cloak of ongoing remembrance.

For me, bearing witness to Shukke Tokudo vows was a reminder of my own inherent yoking to the path of parenthood: bouncing my baby while breathing deep, pacing quietly while vows are recited, practicing the art of listening outwards while also tuning in to the regal responsibility of caring for another human being ever-present in my sore arms. Bearing witness also offered the experience of feeling the full circle of spiritual journeying I have been blessed with alongside my dear brother: the seeds of this Buddhist path planted 11 years ago during our first Vipassana Buddhist retreat together in Dharamsala, India: 10 days of introduction leading to a lifetime commitment for him; 10 days setting me too on a path where Buddhism weaves its ancient threads like a soft, subtle braid through my breaths and days. I crack open the old journals and muse at my own varied path: not straight, not one thing. Instead, my whole life opens before me as an infinite and ongoing conversation with what is Divine.

My brother gave me a card just after the ceremony. In it he said:

“If you look Closely enough

you see the Timeless and Infinite Search

Cease.

HERE, Always here, you Discover yourself.

You know Love and Service are all that you are.”

– Robert Lundin McNamara

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The Beauty of Being Tired

The beauty of being tired is that I don’t even know who I am anymore – like a boat being cut loose in a marsh, I strut around the house with a humor fueled by delerium. I am such a mess and I for the first time in my life feel my mess as a gesture of liberation rather than self-demise.

“The wires in my brain aren’t functioning properly,” I tell Chris, all along thinking I am “losing it” and thinking this is a “bad” thing.  Instead, No.  During a recent yoga practice my teacher asked “feel what part of you is the most open” and like a flash of lightening understanding I answered “the most exhausted part…”

Yes, with certainty, I can now feel that the most tired parts of myself are also the most open and available to transformation.  The differentiating factor:  having no resistance to the tiredness.  The differentiating factor:  letting go into the flow of exhaustion as if it were the finest gift of silk.  “Losing it” is actually what all spiritual masters have been instructing their pupils in for thousands of years.  Losing it equals losing your mind (aha!), losing attachments to egoic structures and habits (aha!) and maybe even losing social personality traits that are like tire skids or fingernails on a chalkboard in their ability to keep you stuck in restless habits that don’t move you where you most want to be.

Exhaustion presents an opportunity to lose the perfectionism and simply abide in what is – albeit even it is only because you’re too tired to do otherwise.  Exhaustion invites loosening of long-held karmic holdings in the body – simply by (literally, physically) wearing them out.

At first, I struggle to hold on to what I think I am in the midst of profound disorientation and frustration…And this is where motherhood busts beyond that holding pattern of “I am tired and I am just going to make all my bad habits worse because of it.”  Motherhood’s exhaustion is like the straw that breaks the camel’s back so to speak – It crumbles you into a million pieces of oblivion where up and down, 2am or 6pm don’t matter – and where Love is the only force of reality that can truly sustain any semblance of sanity.  So when Rowan is wanting milk every 45 minutes at 3am and I jump out of bed screaming “feeding hours are over!” and storm out of the room, rather than trip into a heap on the floor, I can instead take a breath and tap into love that anchors me back to bed.  Yes, a chosen practice, but also a background of grace that somehow dissolves my most irrational behaviors.

The gift of all this is that I can’t spin into self-absorption or even extended self-criticism or doubt.  After all, there’s no time for habits such as these.  Sleep, and the baby, calls.