An Invitation

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This is an invitation
for you to find the space
to sit, to feel the salve
of everything that grows
and is, so that you, too,
can have your place here
 
But it is also a reminder
that everywhere you go,
and it will be far, and long,
you will find the best part
of yourself lying in wait,
so you can discover again.
 
– Tammy Takahashi

Enter the Unknown

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The forest is speaking;
the trail calls out to me.
The trees communing,
and inviting me in.
The fog, too, beckons,
as it lives among the wild,
visiting, it seems,
from another realm,
obscuring the way
to teach me patience,
because I always
want to know more,
and teaching me
how to change the view
by removing, gently,
with nothing but softness,
everything I might have
expected to find,
or desired to have before me.
This act of disappearance,
of a world I am too inclined
to judge, discern,
and lose myself in,
brings what remains closer;
here I am, it seems to say,
right in front of you,
close enough to give you
a lifetime of discoveries,
and it is and sublime,
and there is nothing else
until the next moment,
and the next. Have faith;
enter the dewy morning,
and with each step,
the way will gift itself
to you. Stop thinking ahead,
my love, and allow
the great movement to unfold.
 
– Tammy Takahashi

Trust and Love

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I think the word “trust”
and my heart cowers, trembling,
trying to squeeze
into the tiniest corner it can find,
to be left alone to pick up
a million shattered pieces,
find utmost tenderness
in the wake of a thousand heartaches.
There are so many ways of falling apart,
each feeling like a well-trodden road
that can take you to your place of pain
with the great ease of the unburdened.
The climb back, out, in the other direction,
the monumental effort of this.
The ache of one tiny swivel of the head,
the reward is instant.
Right there, just off to the side
on the road of worry,
a tree, gargantuan, protector and protected.
Both ways.
It makes no promises, asks nothing of you.
So you are drawn here, slowly, to observe,
to witness
(still clutching your aching heart)
the great way of the tree,
standing through all seasons,
accepting of its plush plenitude
and bear nakedness alike,
harming no thing,
nourishing as it is nourished
only to the extent that it can,
so that it always has what it needs,
the great lesson in this.
The great miracle
of being teaching being,
of all that is offered, all the salves
to a heart in need of healing.

– tt

It’s Always Love.

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Garlands of red and white,
deities marking the path, creating joy,
inspiring reverence and contemplation,
our place in the scheme of things,
until we come to a reflection on
being for instead of just being,
or being why,
 
And the path becomes more clear,
and as it does, it comes at you
from all sides, the signs of your tomorrows,
now that there is a reason,
and the obstacles are removed
and the path is cleared,
because it’s always only been love.
 
– TS

Come Be the Flower With Me

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when the wondering comes
soft at first, and then like
a howling windstorm
beating on the homestead door
 
and you are as sure
as you have ever been
that you are not what
you are meant to be
 
and that a million
scattered worlds exist
between you and the vision
you had for this one life
 
follow my gaze here,
to the fields and its
bed of springborn flowers
populating the whole world
 
see how their colors are
vivacious, true and pure
and how there is nothing
that can quiet them
 
regard their petals
issuing forth from source
in a dizzying array of
harmonious patterns
 
without notion of end
or completion, without
having to doubt their ability
to unfold in space and time
 
peppering lands with joy
by virtue of presence alone,
which already implies all
magnitudes of being
 
come be the flower with me.
let us mine our own depths
find beauty there, and boldly
give ourselves to the world
 
– TS

Introverts Need People, Too.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

All my life, I’ve lived in my head.

My mother tells me that they used to sit me on the windowsill of my grandmother’s apartment when I was a wee one and while everyone else chatted away, I’d stare out the window, occasionally pointing at things and asking, “Sta?” I was in my own little world, fascinated with the world around me. This tendency to be introspective and observational by disposition has stayed with me.

When I was in my early twenties, a close friend told me that my best quality was my independence, and my worst quality was my independence. It was an astute observation, even if it did leave me a little unsettled.

I’ve also loved communicating and expressing myself as long as I can remember.

That’s actually not true; I was a very shy kid. However, once I entered adolescence and started understanding myself more in relation to others, I found I was a talkative, opinionated being who also needed a lot of alone time for reflection. I loved being around other people, mostly close friends but also strangers or acquaintances in large gatherings whom I could meet and learn about, after which I’d need a few days to recover.

These days, there’s so much talk about introverts versus extroverts. Back then, all I knew was that I counted on my “catch-up sessions” with myself and my journal to refuel and understand myself better.

I have identified more strongly with the quieter side. The more outgoing I appeared to be or was labeled, the more I actually wanted to dive into a corner and retreat into what I considered to be the most authentic version of myself.

It’s amazing how we cling to our identities, how long we can go in life without challenging our basic assumptions about ourselves, and how invisible these assumptions become as we take them to be incontrovertible truth about who we are.

When I was laid off from my job at the end of 2009 and decided to travel on my own, I deeply looked forward to my time away. While I knew I’d miss my friends and family, I was longing to get some distance from some of my unhealthier habit patterns, which I would have a chance to dissect and deconstruct. I had no fear whatsoever of travelling on my own; I reveled in it, though my old friend’s voice did nag at me a bit:

Am I too independent? Is this part of the problem? What is the problem, exactly?

I refused to believe that loneliness could be lurking somewhere within all the alone-ness I was embracing with joy.

A great teacher I met along the way said something striking to me when she told me that I had a great opportunity to really dive into myself and experience solitude, since I’m the type of person (incidentally, or not incidentally, a Gemini) who exists and thrives in communication. I was surprised. “But I love being on my own. I’ve always been quite independent and introspective, maybe too much.”

A raised eyebrow told me I had a few lessons coming my way.

Cut to a few years later, moving from the sometimes chaotic, often serene and always vivacious landscapes of Southeast Asia and India to Japan. My head and heart were filled with so many encounters with people met along the way, with whom I could share intimate conversations and learn so many things. My ears were still ringing with the jumbled notes of India—the soulful chanting, the “chai chai chai” invocations, the clanging of wares on street, the talking-yelling-laughing-bellowing-beckoning exuberance that was part of daily life there.

Japan is a very quiet place.

My more Zen inclinations reveled in, and continue to love this shocking change of ambiance. I have been rewarded often by ancient mountaintop temples, the tiny urban temples and shrines I visit squished between school and houses and shops, to feel the special charge in the air there. My heart is also warmed by the understated grace, kindness and gentility of the people here.

The truth is, though, that over time I have really had to come face to face with what it means to live without the social interactions to which I’m accustomed.

In a land where it’s not common for people to make direct eye contact or to invade the space of others in any way, where politeness reigns over intimacy in initial interactions, I find myself often contemplating my very visibility when I’m out in public.

If I sit in a café, I’m entirely left to my own devices, which makes me feel that I’m basically in a more crowded version of my living room. I’ve never realized before how much my café experience at home is informed by the chattering I can hear around me, the stolen glances, the smiles exchanged with strangers, the awareness that people around me are reading books I’ve read or have been meaning to read…

In other words, by a shared, common and mutually understood culture.

I’m learning that while I’ve always loved my alone-time, it’s also always been cushioned within the knowledge that I can go out and relate to others any time I feel the need; which, as it turns out, is/was more often than I realized.

As humans, we all live in relation to others. How these relations are expressed across cultures varies widely, but we all exist in a frame of reference that includes others. We are all interdependent. This is a fundamental Buddhist tenet—that of dependence-arising—and a truth that grabs me in the heart.

When we’re outside our familiar culture, we lose our direct grasp of this interdependence, or not know how to fit into the societal web around us, which can lead to well-documented feelings of unease and isolation. Most importantly, though, it’s a great reminder:

As much as we may value our independence—or as introverts, cherish our alone-time—we truly thrive not only when we have time for our own thoughts and feelings, but when can be active, sharing and giving members of our communities.

Exploring new lands and learning about new people is a wonderful thing that I thrive on and personally love. However, understanding how precious it is that we come from a particular place with unique sets of values and codes for social conduct is equally important, and not to be taken for granted. Our culture is not the totality of what we are, but nor should we deny the beautiful ways we have of connecting within our familiar environments; they are part of the fabric of us, and can be an integral facet of our evolution.

Living in Japan is really teaching me how important it is to feel connected and to share in a wider community with love, joy and compassion. Also, that we need to truly confront loneliness that exists within our alone-ness so we can learn to be in healthy solitude, and bring our best selves to the world around us.