When the Earth Shakes

 

It wakes us up—sometimes literally. I was shaken awake at six in the morning many years ago. The sun was just rising and the full moon setting. Through the east, west, and north windows I could see power lines snapping, arcing pale orange, violet, and blue. Smell the smoke. Hear the dogs howling and the sirens wailing from every direction. I was fortunate that my small wood-frame top-floor apartment on top of a small hill was far enough from the epicenter to survive the quake. Many in Los Angeles were not.

The earthquake woke me up to a psychophysical understanding of the privilege, the unpredictability, the mystery of being alive, and to the unshakeable knowledge that I shared this aliveness with all others on this earth. I could see, hear, smell and feel in body and mind, not only the earthquake, but also my inner sensations and emotions. Not only fear and adrenaline, but also empathy for friends, firemen, all the people in the city, and the animals, whose fear I understood in those moments was the same as mine.

What we call natural disasters—earthquakes, hurricanes, floods—often awaken us from the sleep of dissociation—the arbitrary separation of the heart and mind from the body, the constricted sense that each of us is an individual, solid, and solitary. When we realize how we’re not really separate, we respond empathically and emotionally to the recent earthquake in Mexico and to the Atlantic hurricanes with natural generosity. We know that no matter where we live, it’s earthquake country, hurricane zone.

Such responses are found in contemplative art and literature from the earliest times to the present, part of our human heritage. The “Hymn to Poseidon” in The Homeric Hymns: “I begin to sing of Poseidon, the great god / mover of the earth and of the empty sea.” It ends: “Your heart is good, O blessed one. Come to the aid of the sailors.”

Ruth Ozeki’s recent novel, A Tale for the Time Being, set in both Japan and British Columbia, Canada, bridges the Pacific in a story of the connection between two writers, separated by culture, time, and space. Yet connected, even as strong earthquakes on one side of the Pacific cause tsunamis on the other side.

The artist and geologist J.T. Bullitt uses technology to bring us the deep earth sounds of earthquakes that he collects from geological stations worldwide. He transforms the sound waves from the earth to ones human ears can hear. In the link below, he also expresses his connection with the many who were directly affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami through his artwork.  

www.jtbullitt.com/earthsound/tohoku-2011

 

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

Practicing Art | Practicing Meditation

 

Most contemplative traditions recognize that dedicated art practice also expands our capacity for taking care, for paying attention, and for looking more deeply. Image- and text-based art forms, as well as song and dance, appear throughout the history of religions and mystic traditions.

On June 9 the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies will host a symposium on Practicing Art/Practicing Dharma. I’ll be attending that and am happy that this connection between art and meditation is now being more widely explored in Western Buddhism.

In the West, we often associate art and its ability to awaken a deeper sensibility to the mysteries and beauty of being alive with individual artists. However, most work in the sacred traditions, including Buddhism, were painted or composed, written or crafted by unknown artists. The exquisite cave paintings of Pitalkora and Ajanta in India, left no records of individual artists—likewise, the temple-builders and artists of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and Bagan, Myanmar, as well as the creators of the mosaics of Ravenna, the Book of Kells, and the Moorish art and architecture of Alhambra, Spain. All these works, and numerous others, transmit a sense of largeness, mystery, complexity, and completeness.

We can sense in these and in the works of individual historical artists— Aeschylus, Dante, Caravaggio, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dickinson, Whitman, Tolstoy, Ansel Adams, and Akhmatova to name a few—the shared attributes of creative activity and meditation or contemplation. These qualities include attentiveness, intuition, imagination, and a felt sense of timelessness and spaciousness. These are wellsprings of vitality, generosity, and compassion. When we engage in art-making and meditation, we are drawing deeply to refresh ourselves, to notice more of the world, and to act with kindness.

                        Each time we open

                                                            the mirror

                                                                                    there is the sea.

 

Enjoy diving into the well,

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

 

Earth Day

 

On April 22, 2017, Earth Day celebrations will take place in 193 countries, www.earthday.org. I find it encouraging that this recognition of our planetary environment now includes so many celebrations. The concept of Earth Day began with the intentions and actions of a few individuals just over four decades ago.

The several founders—scientists, teachers and professors, citizen activists, and politicians—were clear that this day was to include all species.  No matter how large or small, including those invisible to unaided human eyes. Wherever the species were found: on, under, or above the earth. All the earth’s systems: the biosphere of the surface, the waters, and the atmosphere. 

Earth Day was also conceived as an invitation for all of us to be aware of the interrelations of the myriad species and the dynamic exchanges and changes in the biosphere. Humans, like many other sentient beings, are curious creatures. There is so much to be curious about on our planet earth. New discoveries are made daily in the realms of the oceans, the forests and deserts, in every kind of animal life. We can each make discoveries by simply walking outside anywhere—city, suburb, or country—and paying attention to what is around us.

Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds, the Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness highlights the discoveries made by human research into the mysteries of the octopus family. Godfrey-Smith also suggests that octopuses may be doing research on the researchers. Octopuses, along with us, are curious, deliberative, and playful.

There are many delights in this book, particularly in Godfrey-Smith’s clear outlines of early life form histories, and his own deep-sea diving adventures with octopuses.There are also interesting hypotheses about awareness itself—of our species and others.Godfrey-Smith reminds us that awareness is the stuff of consciousness, and that awareness means the necessity of choice; how, or whether to act or not, no matter which species you’re a member of.

                        whenever I hear      

                                                                              the foghorn sound

              I remember

                                                                                                        that whales journey                 

                                                   without                            compass

 

Enjoy the earth,

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

Equal Dark and Light

 

We choose the equinoxes as Leaping Clear’s issue dates for actual and symbolic reasons. The equinoxes are the two days in the year when daylight and darkness are about equal in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

This balance is brief, changing, and imprecise due to many technical factors of the earth-sun relationship. Yet, the equinoxes are dependable—occurring within a few days or hours of March 20 and September 22—at least within the arc of human history.

This reminds us of how the practices of art-making and meditation are similar: change and stability, concentration and connection. From prehistoric mythology, as well as history, we know that humans have explored the deepest wellsprings of the human heart and mind through meditative and contemplative silence and receptivity. 

And, that we’ve always had a deep need to create new forms, material and mental, practical and spiritual. The standing monuments of the Orkney Islands and Stonehenge, for example, served to mark the recurring passages of the sun, and according to some archeologists, related to some kind of cosmological belief system.

Whatever we know or don’t about prehistoric mysteries, we still depend on dark and light to live, to sleep and to see, to dream and to create. We still mark—and celebrate—the equal nights and days twice a year.

                       no end

                                                     to light                         dark or day 

 

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor