Dear Friends in Dharma
I’m delighted to share with you the first section of a new book which I’m calling “Gifts of Wonderment”. This is a relatively polished draft of what will eventually be a much longer book. I’m posting it now as I don’t know when I will manage to finish the entire project. The entire first section in PDF format can be downloaded here.
(written in late 2022)
I’m writing in a hut that looks out toward Mt Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty, Aotearoa (New Zealand). It’s been a wild night with winds thrashing the palm fronds and punctuations of torrential rain battering the roof. Now the pinky grey light of dawn is beginning to reveal contours of cloud. Spring leaves are dancing everywhere I look; a wet green lushness of sound and smell, a growing lightness, a sense of relief of having survived the night.
It feels trite and perhaps a bit cliché to write that we are living in a historic period of immense uncertainty. After all, life as an ongoing evolving process, is inherently uncertain. Never-the-less, for people all over the world, a malaise of uncertainty tinged with uneasiness and bewilderment, seems to be staring them in the face wherever they look. A viral pandemic is turning the human social world upside down and inside out. UN climate-change conferences, repeatedly collapse in a hormonally driven dust storms of intransigence, wildly hurled accusations, and insincere rhetoric. While this is taking place, greenhouse gasses continue to accumulate. Ice-caps are melting. The primordial symphony of life is sounding more and more dissonant. Pollinators are out of sink with blossom time. Soils are drying out. Fires are raging. Floods are becoming commonplace. Habitats are changing so much that participating species can no longer sustain themselves. As the pace of modern human life becomes ever more frantic, driven by fear and anxiety and increasing desperation to do something, to ‘fix’ things, we find ourselves, either slipping into dark places of despair, or being seduced by promises of dictators, ‘experts’, strong leaders or utopianists, each one of them telling us the right way to live.
As if this wasn’t enough, we are pouring more and more of our resources into funding military ‘solutions’: walls, surveillance, control, incarceration, invasion and proxy wars which in turn lead to floods of refugees, displaced people and damaged ecosystems. Our economies have come to depend on ever increasing extraction, pollution, destruction and fear. Stealing from the future to fund an unsustainable present, we are degrading the living world, our homes, our heath care, education, and social support systems. Seen from a larger socio-historical perspective, this is nothing new. It is simply the current iteration of human struggling that has been going on for thousands of years. In Buddhist thinking, this engulfing ocean of suffering, where the very attempts to solve problems contributes to further problems, is called samsara.
It is little wonder that over the centuries, yogis and meditators have opted for renunciation, withdrawing to caves or monasteries while yearning for transcendence. Today the caves and forest retreats are mostly privately owned. You’d have to book a space well in advance and pay exorbitant rates! In the pages of this book I will suggest other options, ones that might transform your sense of who and what you are, and how we might live well with each other.
Experiential understanding can only take place in and through the activity of the living that we are, and by ‘we’ I mean all of us together, an evolving biosphere on a particular planet circling a particular star. There is no transcendent other place or space to which we can escape, no second planet or plan ‘b’ to fall back on. With such understandings we are left with two options; either to sink even further into a swamp of despair and distraction sometimes punctuated by periods of angry thrashing around, or; to embrace the world in its fullness, to cultivate love and clear seeing in the midst of whatever we are doing and at the same time to help each other on the way.
Gifts of Wonderment is an expansion of contemplations that have been with me since writing Natural Awakening nearly thirty years ago. From time to time I would jot down an essay, or a poem, some of which appeared in earlier books or postings on Green Dharma Treasury. Revisiting them now it seems that all my writings are linked and so I find myself bundling them all together in this book. You could think of it as a long drawn out message, put into a metaphoric bottle and thrown into the ocean of life, with the hope that it might some day wash up on the shores of someone’s experience, helping to reassure them that in their thinking and seeking, they are not alone. Please accept this offering in the spirit it is given; a patchwork quilt of essays, instruction and poetic intimation which I hope will inspire you to embrace, to love and to wonder about this ever mysterious caravan of life unfolding, this collective dancing of all of us.
Inevitably the book is somewhat autobiographical but in a non-chronological manner. It arises out of what, I now see with appreciation and gratitude, has been a rich and full life of exploration – a wholeness of living.
Growing old in the garden of Orgyen Hermitage, in the the lea of the Kaimai range that encircles the Bay of Plenty, my days involve weavings of cancer and ageing faculties, study and contemplation, life reviewing, writing, mentoring, and sharing with whoever comes by some glimpses of vision of how we humans could live. My hope is that these writings synergise the already present beauty and wisdom of whoever reads them. May love and clear seeing bless us all.
Come, my friend,
come and ramble with me
through the fields of my life interests.
Meandering along the pathways
of our unfolding aliveness,
We will see various flowers and creatures,
landscapes and scenes of adventure,
personal becomings and planet wide evolvings.
Sometimes strolling with ease,
sometimes climbing with exertion and deep gulps of breath
gliding so effortlessly that it might seem we could fly.
Let’s walk together;
your life interflowing with mine
and let’s see what we can discover,
and through our walking,
Let’s see what together we create.
To download Gifts of Wonderment: section one in PDF format, click here.