I'm a member of a Contemplative Men's Group that has been meeting for about 15 years. The leadership rotates depending on whose house it meets at during any given week. We socialize, drum, meditate and then engage in a discussion. I find it refreshing to meet with such a group of spiritually sensitive men at a time in history when people often only pay attention to the shadow side of masculinity.
Today's meeting was led by David, a former Mennonite farmer who went to the same seminary I attended and now runs a local carpentry business. The discussion topic he chose was based around the poems of Han Shan, a 9th century Taoist and Chan (Zen) hermit. Entitled "Cold Mountain Poems," this collection deals mostly with Nature, social critique and spiritual enlightenment.
One of the poems especially struck a chord in me and produced a spontaneous "aha" moment. Here it is:
"Since I came to Cold Mountain
I've fed my destiny on mountain fruits.
What cares could there be in an ordinary life?
I'll simply follow mine through . . .
Sun and moon move like a river,
Light and dark; just sparks from stone.
I give you charge of all that changes, earth and sky.
I am become the pivot,
here sitting on this cliff."
After reading this passage, David explained that the cycles of sun, moon, light and dark symbolize for him the continual churning of society with all of its stresses and complications. Yet all the while, the practice of sitting meditation enables us to remain one with our innermost Still Point, allowing us actually to become the calm center or pivot around which all of our societal stresses continually whirl.
Usually, we tend to view life in a linear fashion, imagining our stresses moving along like a river of time that takes us for a long, bumpy ride. Han Shan, however, invites us to see our own stillness as the stable reality - located intriguingly outside the stresses - that is able to place them into a completely different and surprisingly liberating context. How amazing!
Photo: Pasqueflower, Lory State Park, CO, March 10, 2016
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.