Categories
Creativity Poetry Spirituality Writing

Gratitude

For this
this ground beneath my feet,
the signs of seasons, yes, and change
forever change

footsteps
…..forward
……….fortitude
fearlessness

solitude
communion

grace
…..god

greatness in small things……….and large
this, this ground beneath my feet

holds everything
…..and me

spinning forward across a galaxy
…..a universe

and She of all things
in every footstep

here, this ground beneath my feet

Poem + Photo ©2018, Jen Payne.
Categories
Social Commentary Spirituality

A Good Traveling Companion for 2020

Humans love a good fight. We love our teams, our good guys and bad guys, our us and thems so much we forget very quickly that we are all the same. We are all humans — even those of us who desperately try to separate ourselves from the mass of idiocracy. See, even THAT is a fight.

But understanding that — understanding that when I talk about “the idiots” I am setting myself up against them, against you — doing that kind of work, requires us to dig deep. Really deep. To step out of all of the labels and uniforms we wear, and walk naked into a different kind of understanding that our media, our gurus and heroes, our friends and neighbors cannot translate for us.

Many years ago, my dear friend Dale Carlson, introduced me to the writings of Krishnamurti. Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian speaker and writer, and is regarded globally as one of the greatest thinkers and religious teachers of all time.

His writings and talks are profound. Profound in the manner that requires you to leave your thinking-self at the door and settle into WHAT he is saying, because it is unlike anything you have heard before. At least I hadn’t.

In trying times like these, we need someone like Krishnamurti who can lead us out of our petty arguments, our us-versus-them mentality, our my-way-or-the-highway arrogance, and help us find a better way to exist here on this very small part of the infinite Universe.

I found myself this morning sifting through old Krishnamurti quotes, trying to find the ones that would bring me to a different understanding during these difficult days, that would help me meditate on my own role in the hatred and division, that might lead me down a better path.

I have been here before. Have you?

Are you curious? Dale recommends The Book of Life: Daily Meditations with Krishnamurti as a good starting point, but I always find her young adult books to be easy primers…maybe Relationships. To Oneself, to Others, to the World. You can find that and other K books on the Krishnamurti Foundation of America website.

For more about K in general, you might also want to visit jkrishnamurti.org.

We have a long road ahead of us, folks — win or lose, lose or win — and I think Krishnamurti would make a good traveling companion for all of us.


We see the world of hate taking its harvest at the present. This world of hate has been created by our fathers and their forefathers and by us. Thus, ignorance stretches indefinitely into the past. It has not come into being by itself. It is the outcome of human ignorance, a historical process, isn’t it? We as individuals have cooperated with our ancestors, who, with their forefathers, set going this process of hate, fear, greed, and so on. Now, as individuals, we partake of this world of hate so long as we, individually, indulge in it. The world, then, is an extension of yourself. If you as an individual desire to destroy hate, then you as an individual must cease hating. To destroy hate, you must dissociate yourself from hate in all its gross and subtle forms, and so long as you are caught up in it you are part of that world of ignorance and fear. Then the world is an extension of yourself, yourself duplicated and multiplied. The world does not exist apart from the individual. It may exist as an idea, as a state, as a social organization, but to carry out that idea, to make that social or religious organization function, there must be the individual. His ignorance, his greed, and his fear maintain the structure of ignorance, greed, and hate. If the individual changes, can he affect the world, the world of hate, greed, and so on? The world is an extension of yourself so long as you are thoughtless, caught up in ignorance, hate, greed, but when you are earnest, thoughtful, and aware, there is not only a dissociation from those ugly causes that create pain and sorrow, but also in that understanding there is a completeness, a wholeness.

The Book of Life, J. Krishnamurti


Then there is the fundamental question of man’s relationship to man. This relationship is society, the society which we have created through our envy, greed, hatred, brutality, competition and violence. Our chosen relationship to society, based on a life of battle, of wars, of conflict, of violence, of aggression, has gone on for thousands of years and has become our daily life, in the office, at home, in the factory, in churches. We have invented a morality out of this conflict, but it is no morality at all, it is a morality of respectability, which has no meaning whatsoever. You go to church and love your neighbor there and in the office you destroy him. When there are nationalistic differences based on ideas, opinions, prejudices, a society in which there is terrible injustice, inequality -we all know this, we are terribly aware of all this- aware of the war that is going on, of the action of the politicians and the economists trying to bring order out of disorder, we are aware of this. And we say, ‘What can we do?’ We are aware that we have chosen a way of life that leads ultimately to the field of murder. We have probably asked this, if we are at all serious, a thousand times but we say ‘I, as a human being, can’t do anything. What can I do faced with this colossal machine?’ When one puts a question to oneself such as ‘What can I do?’ I think one is putting the wrong question. To that there is no answer. If you do answer it then you will form an organization, belong to something, commit yourself to a particular course of political, economic, social action; and you are back again in the same old circle in your particular organization with its presidents, secretaries, money, its own little group, against all other groups. We are caught in this. ‘What can I do?’ is a totally wrong question, you can’t do a thing when you put the question that way. But you can, when you actually see (as you see the microphone and the speaker sitting here) actually see that each one of us is responsible for the war that is going on in the Far East, and that it is not the Americans, nor the Vietnamese, nor the Communists, but you and I who are responsible, actually, desperately responsible for what is going on in the world, not only there but everywhere. We are responsible for the politicians, whom we have brought into being, responsible for the army which is trained to kill, responsible for all our actions, conscious or unconscious.

—Talks in Europe 1968, Social Responsibility, J. Krishnamurti

Categories
Creative Nonfiction Living Memoir Quotes Spirituality

Flexible Flyer

This week, I learned that Nicholas Koutroumanis, an old friend of my family, died recently. I thought I would share this piece I wrote about him 8 years ago.

 


 

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you.…All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.

– – – – –

We call him Pappous, or Nicholas.

He and my mother became fast friends five years ago while neighbors at the their senior-living apartment complex. They went for walks, grocery shopped, and sat in doctors’ waiting rooms together. They listened to each other’s stories — her two daughters, growing up in Pennsylvania, the divorce; his life in Greece, the war injuries, his son.

He is old enough to be her father, really, but they seem to find comfort in such differences. Her patience with him seems endless, and his with her. He speaks broken English and Greek, she nods her head; she talks forever, and he nods his. He picks a piece of lint off her sweater and she waves him away; she kisses his cheek and he waves back.

The first Easter he spent with my family, he sang hymns in Greek — his voice so pure and beautiful you would cry at the sound.

Nicholas has been a frequent companion with my mother for holidays and birthdays and family celebrations over the years. He always brings pears, or grocery store pies, and tells stories about wild turkeys, God…and spirits. On my nephew’s first birthday this summer, he sat on a folding chair in the shade wearing a Hawaiian lei watching his little “Cowboy” enjoy the festivities.

– – – – –

And then you will be ready to begin the most difficult, the most powerful, the most fun of all. You will be ready to begin to fly up and know the meaning of kindness and of love.

– – – – –

My friend MaryAnne and I saw Nicholas today. He has a nice room at Yale, overlooking the hospital’s parking garage. Outside of a little high-blood pressure, he seems no worse for the wear of his 88-years, except…

“You’ll have to forgive me” he says for the fifth time in 20 minutes, “This is my first time getting old.”

For six weeks, Nicholas has been in this holding pattern — somewhere between his old life and his next one at a yet-to-be-determined nursing home. But he makes do. There are photos of his families taped to the window — his son and granddaughter, my sister and her son. A Greek newspaper is half-read and folded across the arm of a chair next to his favorite hat and familiar tan jacket. He makes easy, flirty conversation with the nurse who arrives to take his blood pressure. He tells old jokes and hugs us each with full and firm resolve.

A dry-erase board in front of the bed reminds him that TODAY is Friday, NOVEMBER 23. It includes the names of his doctor, the nurse. The blue magic marker notes that he is INDEPENDENT, but he is as much aware of the confines of this new life as we are.

“What are you going to do?” he shrugs his shoulders. “This is the day you have.”

In one moment, he is tangled in loops of conversation — “So, how are you?” he asks four, five, six times. And the next, he is as lucid as the day he fixed me up on a blind date, and sat as chaperone over tea and pear slices.

As we drink coffee from paper cups in the hospital cafeteria, he moves effortlessly from 40 years passed to last week to 10 years ago. My mother is his wife is his daughter is my sister is me. The details are off, the timeline is skewed, but the meaning of what he wants to share is clear.

“I woke up at 4 a.m.,” he says, “because there was a bright light. When I opened my eyes, I saw Stella. My wife. She was so bright. I told her how much I miss her.”

Stella passed away three years ago.
He is trying not to cry.

“I told her ‘I miss you Stella, come here’ but she would not come. I asked if she is in heaven and she said no. No.”

It is not heaven, he tells us, just a different side of the atmosphere.

“Here,” he says, holding his heart, “is heavy because we are here,” he points downward. “But there, on the other side of the atmosphere, everything is light.”

– – – – –

Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself.

– – – – –

In and out of the conversation, I am reminded of the pages in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which I read for the first time earlier in the day.

Nicholas, my elder and my Pappous, teaching me as wise Chiang taught Jonathan.

The trick… was for Jonathan to stop seeing himself as trapped inside a limited body.…The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.

Nicholas seems to move that way now — effortlessly across space and time. If he is bothered by his current situation he doesn’t let it show too much, and then forgets soon after. Besides, what are you going to do? This is the day you have.

 

©2012, Jen Payne. Quotes from Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Categories
Books Creativity Poetry Spirituality

18 – First Teacher

Last name long forgotten
but there at the base
of what I believe
of god and faith
and my place
in the Universe,
sits my first teacher,
fits guru—Al.

We met over
midnight coffees,
swapped donut shop
philosophies
on late night shifts,
asked questions
and tested answers
at the boundary between
martial arts, his,
and liberal arts, mine,
until the sun rose,
on the new day,
each day
that long first summer.

Pulling books from
his backseat library
I learned that
god comes in
different shapes
and different colors,
that there is no one way,
no wrong way,
no right way.
God just is,
and Al just was,

and I just was, too,
until the next summer,
when I sought out his grave
under a sinking sun
there by the long, wide river —
left a rose as thanks
and knew my search
had just begun.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.