Our Many, Our Whole

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My body, my land.

Containing all the stories

all the world in it,

but they are not all my own.

The whole is not simple,

vague or even pure.

We must never stop

listening to how this swirl

this totality morphs into the

particularities of me and

you, as we strive

and struggle to bring ourselves

to the whole with compassion

and understanding.

We are one, yes,

but it doesn’t end here;

we are still so incomplete

in our knowing,

if not our being.

May we always

listen

honour

respect

commit

to the mosaic of our

distinct stories.

Our bodies

Our landscapes,

Our jewels

build something

beautiful together. – TS

Voice (from me to you)

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What of having a voice
and not knowing how to speak
or what to say?
 
Is it possible that the sounds
need to echo from here to there,
from me to you
 
before I can find their most
deepest resonance?
To hear first, to listen,
 
the world’s greatest song.
To hear, too, the quiet thunder
roaring in this heart of mine
 
to know with absolute surety
that there are dreams of breaking free
and why, and how,
 
and what purpose is served
therein. Then the quiet whispers
turn to siren, voice to precious gold. – TS
 

Our Passions, Our World

 

When we did we learn
To hide our exuberance
And hold our
Passions in?
The world will not
Become more quiet
Because we are more
Quiet in it,
Or through our
Indifference.
The sun shines and
Serves to gives us life,
But when I look at the sun,
I see a million sweet dreams
Swimming in a yellow sea
With the power to vibrate
Themselves whole.
The garden that feeds us,
Maintained and kept,
A whole realm of
Rich sweet mystery.
The trees that remain
Lined on city streets
Shorn for convenience
Are sitting on stories
Millions of years old,
And will share them
Anytime.
The time is now –
We need our communions,
Our shared vision of hope,
And the world has never
Stopped listening.
Let us seek her
Guidance. – TSdscf6183

This Anonymous Letter to Humanity is a Wake Up Call. Please read!

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Tragedy always seems so distant and is beautiful in the reactions it causes. briefly, we are forced to care, we are connected and we pray and promise and hope for change. but the words are quickly lost and our minds quickly w[a]nder to other things even when the problems persist[s] with as much power and vigor than before.”

“our manic-depressive switching from compassion to apathy just results in each feeling negating the other. it’s easy to disregard what we can’t see. emotions are generally distorted reflections. over exaggeration and under exaggeration are common, but usually they are just faked completely. what matters isn’t the initial feeling, but the feelings they evoke in others.” – anonymous

 

I took both of these images years ago, when I was still living in Toronto, and obsessed with the vibrant graffiti and street art culture thriving there (I’m still obsessed, but from a distance!). I eventually compiled the photos into a book that I was thrilled to sell at the amazing, and sadly now-closed, Pages Books & Magazines, on eclectic and hip Queen Street West, not far from much of the city’s best street art.

I became deeply immersed in the city through two lenses – that of the street artists themselves, and of my own, through photographing their work. It was a human connection through several layers, but a surprisingly intimate one. There are so many beautiful ways to commune with others, to receive, and give back.

The photo I took, below, has stayed with me – haunted me, really – ever since. I stumbled on these two small strips of paper, written in a regular-sized font on a simple strips of paper, glued to a piece of wood in an urban back alley. It wouldn’t be the first thing you saw walking along, but I’d been wandering around this neighbourhood for months, and one day these faded, stained pieces of paper caught my eye.

The author will remain forever unidentified (though I would love to meet him or her, and have a conversation, and know of the experiences that led to the writing of this letter to the city).

In a big city, which to my mind is increasingly a metaphor for the larger, global world we live in, being human often translates into feeling tiny, lost, insignificant. The writer of this plea to the city makes some very prescient comments, alluding to the tendency for our empathy and compassion to come and go as quickly as we’ve now come to experience the updates on our social media newsfeeds in the years since.

Of course, this isn’t empathy at all, or compassion, because when we have learned to cultivate these qualities, they cease to be fleeting, and we become more able to generate a sustained desire to change the world (and ourselves) for the better. To connect, deeply, gently and kindly.

“It’s easy to disregard what we can’t see.” Let’s make a world where it’s not desirable to avoid seeing. Let’s remove the veils behind which apathy and blind eyes flourish.

Speaking out from a small slip of paper, this anonymous writer reminds us that it only takes a moment to put something negative in the world, but a lot longer for the effects of this negativity to fade away. We should remember, in reading his or her beautiful, cautionary words, that behind the facades we use through which to communicate with the world (be it art or social media), we are real beings, reaching out to other human beings, who want to love and be loved as much as the next person.

Not for what we say or do, not only for right now, under these circumstances and not only to get a “like”, but unconditionally. Equally.

This is the beginning and end of what we deserve as we make our way, sometimes fumbling and yes, also dancing our way through the world. In case I never meet this author of these words, I send out a heart full of gratitude for taking the time to formulate these observations and attach them to the urban outdoors, so that we may be duly reminded.

 

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

The Girl with the Ukelele

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

The Girl with the Ukelele

(India)

When you sit down to learn stone carving from some of the world’s most practiced craftsmen, in Mamallupuram, Tamil Nadu, India, people are going to be curious.

A few days ago, we decided it would be fun to try this art form. All across town you can see men chiseling away and gorgeous finished products out front: Ganesh and Buddha predominate.

I initially thought this trip was going to be about opening my heart by way of spending time in ashrams, doing seva (work with no expectation of compensation) and meeting with spiritual gurus. I felt I needed this, the Hugging Mother’s hugs, to awaken to my own heart through meditation and slow, deliberate contemplation. Maybe this is still the case. But so far we’ve become fascinated by how much of a living art India is in almost all its aspects. The aliveness of the place, the colours. I have a piece of cloth I’ve been embroidering for over a year that I couldn’t bring myself to work on during our trip to India last year, and I’ve been at it daily here. And now stone carving.

We sat outside the shop with the two foreigner wranglers and stone polishers, and a few masters of the trade. We chiseled, hammered, watched in awe as the masters designed our pieces and images – of a Buddha and a hand – started coming to life. Many people passed by since we were on the main road of the tourist area, which Lonely Planet refers to as Backpackistan. Most looked at what we were doing, some with keen interest. Maybe 10 per cent came by to watch, and about half of those people smiled, exclaimed, or sat down to talk and watch. Just sitting there, we were attracting kindness, the attention of new people, and conversation.

One of the people to stop and sit down was a Japanese girl who just arrived in India the day before, for a four month trip culminating in Sri Lanka. She was quiet, curious and had a very strong presence about her. She left about an hour later, and returned in the evening. She probably had it in her mind to have dinner with us, but this was our last day with the carving, and we both started new, smaller pieces to practice, and couldn’t stop. Hesitating, she sat, worked on a tiny elephant one of the guys surprised her with, and took out a ukelele. Exclaiming, I asked her to play, and started working again.

Soon I could hear the softest, most melodic voice singing Aloha, making the Hawaiian tune sound like a folk song. The waves lapped audibly nearby.

Connections Will Find You

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Connections Will Find You:

A Dialogue with Christine Fowle

 

(Note: This newest addition to the Dialogue series is not done in interview format; it’s a piece co-written with Christine, as it emerging through a dialogue between her and I in India and Japan, respectively).

 

*

 

We met last year. Two women from North America who travelled halfway around the world and landed in India for a chance encounter and unlikely kinship. Our karmic collision transpired throughout a 10-day course called “What is the Mind?”, taught by Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, the first and currently only, Buddhist nun to hold this “Geshe” title, the PhD of the monastic world.

Against the backdrop of the Himalayas, the seeds of our personal friendship were planted; and also represent the culmination of the individual journeys presented here. The search for higher meaning often sparks the impetus for dramatic life-change. Maneuvering out of the self-limiting chains that bind us, is a trait shared by many of us on this path. Confusing, powerful and very, very personal, each of us has a tale to tell.

It is our hope that by sharing ours, those with similar aspirations will see themselves woven throughout the stories represented by these words.

 

Christine’s story:

It can be safely attested, that up until seven years ago I was running an undeviating path towards far more conventional pursuits. Until this time, both the freedom of expression and any spiritual inklings were deeply buried within the same seed. Scrappy and disjointed, both emerged, seemingly on cue, from the grit beneath the city streets of Paris.

It was 2006 and I’d stepped into a fairytale designed by Salvadore Dali.

From the moment the airplane touched ground, every cell in my body vibrated in anticipation. An irresistible job opportunity and subsequent relocation, it was a decision that would radically alter the trajectory of my future. Never having written anything personal before, ideas, instantly morphing into shapes, started composing what would later form a memoir.

However, enchantment had its limits and as soon was discovered, so did I. As the façade dropped, both the job and city began taking relentless whacks at my psyche. Darkness covered light and repeated with intensity more of the same, until suffocating, I was shoved toward the answers.

It was at this time I began to meditate. From where the idea first originated will forever remain a mystery, but it was in this space that I was led to Buddhism and Yoga — and the air to breathe was found.

As the shadows began to dissipate the determination to write grew more urgent. Direction unknown, the only certainty held was that I had something to say. The need to release the words finally overwhelmed my desire for safety and security; against the advice of many, I ended my career. However, months flew past and still, I had not yet discovered my voice.

In my search, the continuum of past and present exposed a gallery of raw imagery, fusing a fading history with recent impressions. Separated from the chain, these individual links revealed the pieces of a long-obscured puzzle. Established values, ethics and beliefs were challenged, dissected and smacked against the wall. Penetrating the layers of emotion — desire for validation and inhibiting judgment were slowly scraped away until all that was left was a naked reflection.

It was in this moment I realized precisely what Paris had lured me there to discover; I wasn’t proud of the woman I’d become.

So, I sat on the floor of my little Parisian flat and I cried. Not because I was upset or even sad. The overwhelming sea of tears was because I was so profoundly grateful. I’d finally figured it out. I could stop pretending — pretending that I was a sum of all the things I’d surrounded myself with. For in fact, I was none of these. But buried far beneath this truth, I discovered something even more precious; it was my voice.

After falling back into the arms of a patiently waiting career, two years passed and in a twisted déjà vu, it was the call of Mother India who beckoned. In the space between Salvadore Dali and the plinking of sitars, rhythms of the universe provided nourishment to the seeds planted in the City of Light. Mantra and muse, Yoga and Buddhism provide both direction for my work and the beacon by which to guide.

 

What I’m working towards:

Ultimately, the desire for fulfillment isn’t spiritual. It’s human.

The Western labyrinth of behaviors and societal conditioning provides a complex playground, which we must all navigate. Each of us individually however, is responsible for discovering the way to self-fulfillment. It is my aim, through personal essay, to translate a very small portion of wisdom, developed by those who have long since made this journey.

 

Tammy’s story:

I am fascinated by what is referred to in Zen Buddhism as “beginners’ mind.” As a cerebral young person who loved literature and the arts, I first came to into this idea with the French Impressionist painters’ “innocent eye” approach. They often developed their painting styles based on capturing objects, not as we are conditioned to see them, but as they are — out there, on that particular day, in that particular light. What they were meeting was new, and now.

Someplace deep inside, I instinctually possessed the dark feeling of being loaded down by an inordinate burden. From where this ancient depth of clutter, sadness and confusion originated is a mystery, but it fuelled a desire. I longed to experience the world unhinged from this weight and totally free.

The discord running through me was strong; my inner world was gulfed in and self-contained, devoid of harmonious ties with the outer. I felt alone and isolated despite fortunate life circumstances and a fountain of love surrounding me. I dreamed of things I didn’t or couldn’t know; these visions remained privately locked inside because I didn’t know they could be shared, that it was possible to engage in a world of genuine communion.

With maturity brings lucidity, and it is clear to me now I was begging to be connected to something larger than myself. Alluring and impossible, the deep-seated knowledge that there was something bigger emerged as something of an alien wisdom. The result was a deepening of the schism within, because my rational mind could only negate the wisdom confronting it.

During this time, several events I regard as synchronicities pointed me to the life-direction I would eventually take. A book about Buddha’s four noble truths, for example, made its way into my hands and I devoured it; this was one of many guideposts I met with curiosity. A movement was starting to unfurl, which would eventually lead to leaving behind a career and boarding a plane heading East.

I met a grandfatherly Indian man on that flight and we talked for hours. Close to landing, he told me we’d met before, that he was sent to ensure I was going to be alright. Upon hearing I was on my way to Southeast Asia and India to study yoga and mediation, he smiled and said he could see I’d averted a path full of pitfalls and was exactly where I needed to be.

Life flows in unexpected ways and our work is to observe, accept and receive the lessons offered. My desire to stop feeding old inhibiting patterns had started to subdue all resistance toward embracing a new way of being. It was shockingly easy, in the end, to begin the process of allowing intuition in. The prospect of harmonizing the rhythms of body and mind became an exciting challenge, profoundly changing my approach to life and wellbeing. Most importantly, I learned to follow the path of the heart.

I will fall often as I face the edifice of old habits. This is a natural and beautiful aspect of growth. Working with the tools of meditation, mindfulness and yoga to access my inner wisdom and achieve integration — of self with self, self with world – is allowing me to approach my “beginner’s mind,” every moment of every day. For this I will remain ever grateful.

 

What I’m working towards:

In three words, to be present.

The only way to access truth, and share what I learn through creative expression, is to be here and not a billion miles away on the joyride of my thoughts.

The mind is a powerful filter determined to keep me exactly where I am; this is no longer acceptable. Through the grace of amazing teachings and the gritty, gorgeous work of meditation, the process of discovery has ensued. I have a body; emotions are written on it; long-held beliefs are mere illusions. This process is the catalyst to let go of the iron-grip I have on my own, very limited perceptions and begin embracing the wisdom that sees that most mysterious endless space: the heart.

 

Sangha — Our story:

In Buddhism there is a concept called Sangha. Considered one of the three jewels, the term is loosely translated as spiritual friends. Not merely two individual stories, this piece is in intended to represent a living embodiment of Sangha.

Out of the innumerable beings interwoven throughout our lives, only a few are invited to remain. These are indeed precious jewels. Our shared paths revealed the potential of friendship only at the apex in which we met, with a mutual desire to understand the seemingly impossible to understand — the mind.

Breaking from the mainstream and embarking on, what is on many levels, an inward journey, takes courage. To support others finding their way is to support oneself. It is only a dualistic standpoint, which perceives that where I end, another begins. From the far broader universal perspective, oneness begins and ends with only one.

We are never truly alone.

 

*****

Please take a look at Christine’s fascinating writing on her website, Searching For OM.

Red Flower of Hope

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

 There’s No War in World: Red Flower of Hope

(Japan)

A red flower of hope gives birth to herself next to me, flush with sensual awakening, a fall flower, a red of violent determination. I can’t find a park or a shrine (or the Buddhist temple that typically flanks the shrine to one side), so I sit on the bench outside Circle K drinking my 100 yen coffee. Inside, the old man working at the convenience store spoke to me in English, a first. As I waited for the coffee machine to pour the coffee into my paper cup, where are you from? For me, this is music now, his smile, gold. He’s never been to Canada, but studied English in Los Angeles 40 years ago, a long time ago!. My husband studied English in Los Angeles fifteen years ago. Things flow in, things flow out. It’s hard to feel the slow, beautiful death autumn represents today, the sun shines so brightly, a late-day wise in the early morning, an ever-strong aging hero, allowing for early blossoms and late clarity at once. A day for convergence.

What exists between the wait and life?

The mermaids know.

The ocean knows.

Each little action you take in a day knows.

Being present knows.