Wednesday, July 08, 2015

This Island Earth

I should have waited for an overcast day to take pictures because the full sun on the hot colours of red roses and hot pink petunias make my cheap little Nikkon lens have grand mal seizures, but blossoms are so fleeting, aren’t they? 

We've had a good bit of rain and everything is just bursting into bloom, so I grabbed my camera and headed out to take some pictures of the flowers and shrubs I’ve planted over over the last four years. 

Remember my little run-in some days ago with the woman about dumping 500 pounds of roadfill into the carefully designed and tended Zen garden? Well, her live-in boyfriend is president of the condo board this year, and Monday I received a rude letter from our management company, ordering me to stay out of the flower beds that I have planted and cared for daily for the last four growing seasons.  Since "the work" now primarily boils down to weeding  which hurts my back, I'm not broken-hearted.

I wrote management and told them what needed to be done, and today two of the landscape crew spent well over an hour yesterday being paid to weed and pick up the garbage in the garden, which I'd have done for free. 

But the situation brings to mind a good story, and I'll share one of my favourite songs from Jonathon Edwards called "This Island Earth", plus a good many pictures of the lovely flowers growing in the garden. Enjoy dears… 

                                              Might as well start with the music. 

Gurdjieff was an early 20th century teacher. Students came to live and study with him on his estate near Paris. There was one man in the community nobody could stand because he was impossible to get along with. He was overbearing and boorish, bullied the other students relentlessly, and had such a short fuse that everyone was constantly filled with tension, knowing that any insignificant thing could cause him to explode. The other students just wished that he would go away.

One of Gurdjieff’s teaching methods was to make his students do repetitive tasks that were completely meaningless; with the purpose of making them awaken to their reactions. It wasn't the meaningless tasks that were important, it was his students' inner experiences that mattered.

One day Gurdjieff’ told his students to dig up the grass on one side of a path and replace it with the grass growing on the other side. This task proved to be too much for the man that everyone disliked. Halfway through the morning he blew up, screamed that he’d had enough of Gurdjieff’s useless chores, threw down his shovel, stormed to his room, packed his suitcase, ran to his car and drove away, swearing never to return. The rest of the community was delighted and cheered as his car disappeared down the drive. But when they told Gurdjieff what happened, he said “Oh, no!” and went after him.

Three days later they both came back. That night, when he was serving Gurdjieff his supper, his attendant asked, “Sir, why did you bring him back? It was so much more pleasant here with him gone,” Gurdjieff motioned the attendant to come closer and answered very quietly, “Between you and me; you must tell no one. I pay that man to stay here.”

People like Gurdjieff’s professional irritant and experiences like him, are what are called life's therapeutic irritations. They exist to wake us up. Like the sand in the oyster that is the seed of the pearl, therapeutic irritations stir a reaction in us. They pull off our blinders and teach us what is not possible to learn when surrounded with admiration, peace and harmony. 

Buddhism teaches that the difficult is the best teacher, and that all of us suffer from the same kleshas, mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. 

The kleshas are also called the five poisons and are:

1: Passion (craving, greed, lust etc)
2: Aggression: (anger, hatred, resentment etc)
3: Ignorance: (confusion, bewilderment, apathy etc)
4: Pride: (arrogance, conceit, low self-self esteem etc)
5. Jealousy: (envy, a lack of self-worth, paranoia, etc) 

Buddhism teaches that while the kleshas can never be completely eliminated, they can be pacified. Once you realize how these negative emotions are poisoning your health, happiness and well-being you can train yourself yourself to reject them when they arise, and gradually they lose their power over you. 

 This is a universal struggle faced by all of humanity and one that calls for compassion rather than anger when you are faced with “therapeutic irritations”. 

As Jean Vanier, who I admire so much said, “We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. Each one of us needs to feels appreciated and understood. We all need help.”

Let’s face it. Happiness is an inside job. 

Story about Gurdjiieff for Pema Chodron’s book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Shambala Press, 1994 


Barbara said...

Oh my gosh. I thought I was the only person in the world that loved Jonathan Edwards. In fact, I didn't know he was still playing. I was his greatest fan in the 70s. Thanks for sharing this song so I can go back and hear everything he's been up to.

And, my the way, I found your blog while I was blog hopping today. I'll be your new follower.

Deb said...

Hi Barbara,

Jonathan Edwards is still doing concerts. :) You can see some of his videos on YouTube. Just use his name as the keywords in a search. You'll find his videos mixed in with sermons from an old preacher of the same name, but it's obvious who is who.
You can also buy his CDs on his own site, or download them.

Thanks for dropping by!

All the best,