The Virtues of Shopping

Shopping is not an activity that I‘m particularly fond of. Quite frankly, I only get on with it. One of these things that I just have to do. Sometimes, it comes with some extra difficulties. Today it is pouring rain. That just came suddenly to annoy me as I’m walking back home with my bag of groceries. Well, I’ll clench my teeth and show some bravery. But my inner world is screaming out loud. A whole company of thoughts that march in my mind, and on it. For they numb me, make me blind and deaf to the world. In short, I’m complaining about all sorts of things: my stiff body and this cumbersome umbrella; a walk far too long from the shop. Now I long to be home and hurry my steps. I fiddle for my keys. Three storeys to climb. No room for a view…

Well, that’s one version of it. The other is to be simply present. But that’s easier said than done. Unfortunately I don’t master it yet. I get lost. Forget myself. Maybe I’m trying too hard. For this quality of presence often comes unexpectedly as a gift when you really let go of yourself; of that little babbling, pestering mind. In those precious moments, you come to know precisely what you are doing. It is such a gift, to know what you are a part of. Life then comes with its own explanatory notes. It unfolds; shows its brightness and dumbfounding simplicity. I know with a childlike clarity that I am now — actually — coming back from shopping. Not in a vague and lazy way but clearly. I am fully participating. There is a slowing down. I become interested. Present.

There is a body walking here in the street. And I’m grateful for it. It’s even a thrill to feel it. To be alive. To have this pain in the shoulder. Nothing much. The little price to pay for carrying the shopping bag. There are not many thoughts around, so the world does not appear somewhat darkened, in two dimensions, as a flat and dull projection of a mountain of resistance. There is some relief, profundity. It is three-dimensional. The rain has stopped and the houses around appear with their various pastel colours, as it is commonly seen in this region. This is really beautiful. Many bicycles are negligently resting against the wall by my side. Some are standing under the trees with elegance, and a certain artistic composure. I feel truly happy. 

I don’t feel constrained by my shopping. On the contrary. It comes with a gentle and subtle sense of pride. To bring back home the necessary food that will substantiate us. It has purpose. What a lovely thing to know what is exactly going on, and not what we project and finally invent. To have a clear view. To see meaning. All these things that come easily when we do not impose unnecessary barriers on our living experience. Countless drops of water are now falling leisurely from the trees onto the pavement. It is a soothing thing to see and hear. It is music. A few high green plants grow around a nearby trunk, stand erect, dance even, stretching towards the rain, blessed. Even plants can show some eagerness of living, some gratefulness, and finally this strange sense of happiness that pervades the world when it is seen for what it exactly and truly is. It is my turn, today, to feel just that!…

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
– Other ‘Reveries’ from the blog…

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The Shrug

Went for a walk this morning, a little tired,
A little weary, to taste of the autumn air,
And watch the coloured wood against
The sparkling snow mountain caps.
Below the village along the narrow valley,
The path led to clean fields, a clearing;
Two houses stood there, farms with
Cows and hens and cats, a garden there
Deliciously abandoned for winter is coming.
Furtive escapes, lazy grazing, slow wanderings,
Countless hideouts — a children’s paradise.
I saw two young men working,
And I stood there watching;
Tasting…

Then simple men with simple features
Came towards me with wondering eyes;
We exchanged words, they were smiling.
In the silence offered to me then,
I promptly dreamt of living here:
Sitting all morning on those steep slopes,
To think, and keep an eye on the herd,
Twig in my mouth contemplating sceneries,
Strong legs, strong hands, a little nap,
I’d learn simple work for simple ends,
I’d give my heart to this beautiful piece of land 
And those two young men smiling at me.
Addressing them, I said: I like this place.
They shrugged.

So they did it again, my playful thoughts —
To imagine another place, another deed,
To bend the exquisiteness of the now
And squeeze it into a stretch of time, 
Another mirage for my needy self.
The new is good at stirring our imagination
And digging out pleasure that would not last
When coming down day after day with milking cows.
I clung to the marvellous autumn colours for help. 
They told me of all that rests peacefully
Behind the field of thoughts, the claws of time.
They told me that there is a happiness and a beauty 
Always — when you’re resting as rests the land
Or the clear sky, the mountain caps.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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An Unnoticed Pathology

In our relationship to truth, we often find ourselves in the position of somebody who, on waking up, tries to remember his dream. Any searching, any effort to remember, the slightest doing towards that goal, is pushing the dream away, dislocating it irremediably.

The problem is that we want something. This is our state. Our unnoticed pathology. One that we have inherited from society, and that we have integrated to the point of being it — this wanting, craving, searching. We mind what happens and want to control it. Fair enough. But we should do it from a position of truth, of relaxation, of not minding. We should let the story go, the one that tells us that we are incomplete, not enough, needy of a thousand things, and that prevents us from seeing clearly this presence that we are now and of all eternity. 

We cannot even say that we will let go of all seeking and just sit down doing nothing, for our ‘not doing anything’ is already a cathedral of doing that we have patiently and methodically put together over the years. As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal once noticed, “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 

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Some thoughts on our unfortunate propensity for seeking… (READ MORE…)

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The Practice of the Presence of God

The monk at prayer’ (detail) – Edouard Manet, 1865 – WikiArt

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A little lifting up of the heart suffices.
A little remembrance of GOD, 
one act of inward worship
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~ Brother Lawrence

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From the remote time of the seventeenth century in Paris has come a voice whose freshness and intimacy struck a chord in many a spiritual seeker throughout the generations. The man behind it was a lay brother working in the kitchen of a Carmelite monastery in the French capital. He was born Nicolas Herman in 1614 in the region of Lorraine, but took the religious name of Lawrence of the Resurrection. What a miracle that the writing of this simple lay brother found its way down to us. But although a remarkable journey, it is understandable that it did so. For the words of this humble, hardworking man, all occupied to his cooking activities, show a mountain of dedication to God. His simplicity and softness, combined to an undefeatable and spontaneously joyful practice, is a deeply valuable gift passed down to us.

Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue; presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself. At other times, when I apply myself to prayer, I feel all my spirit and all my soul lift itself up without any care or effort of mine, and it continues as it were suspended and firmly fixed in GOD, as in its centre and place of rest.”
~ Brother Lawrence

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Rejoice in the illuminating life and practice of Brother Lawrence… (READ MORE…)

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Our Sacred Destination

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Our whole life ought to be being.
So far as our life is being, so far it is in God
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~ Meister Eckhart

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There is none but you, O Lord! — And yet I am dispersed in a thousand identities. I’m not in your embrace but in the embrace of thoughts, feelings, in the entrancement of the senses, and the endless worries and regrets. I desire only you but do not know it yet well enough. So I’m off in a thousand directions. But why don’t I keep it simple? For all my objective moves and endless searches happen in one place only, which is inside my own self and experience. Why being so dispersed? Go for your self only. Forget about all these apparent ‘other than yourself’. Let them all die. Stay in the glorious being that rests in and as the centre of every experience that you may have, of every quest that you may be engaged in. Be still, without moves. Ignore all your impulses towards these endless, hypothetical outsides. Observe them all and see that they are made only of the still presence of your own self. It will spare you a thousand thwarted expectations. All the weariness that goes with it. And all the efforts to get yourself out of these constant little traumas. Be supremely lazy. Forget about the thousand words that stretch themselves like a forest where you get lost again and again. Cease running about. Empty your load. Have a quiet nap in the shade of your sweet self. It has the gentle coolness of the presence of peace, and the happiness contained in the simple evidence of being. It is about you: your own glorious self. Don’t think that you have to achieve something, or be one of these heroes that you have been conditioned to be by society. Be alone, empty. Let go. Rest. Only rest. How difficult is that? And don’t wait for anything there. Only enjoy the simple destination of being just yourself. You are destined for it. For the simple reason that there is in truth nothing but that. Nothing but the obvious, sacred destination of your self. It all rests there: everything you ever wanted to possess, achieve, understand, reach. All is contained in that simple point of presence which lies in and as the centre of your being. Forget about anything else but the destiny of your one and only sacred destination: Being.

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Text and photo by Alain Joly

Quote by Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

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Bibliography:
– ‘Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings’ – by Meister Eckhart – (Penguin Classics)
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)

Website:
Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia)

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The Ember

Photo by Michael Foley Photography on Foter.com

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I do not know where the fire comes from
It is hidden, ready to burst
A piece of ember under the ashes

When the flame has died out
The ashes are left, 
Like a thick coat
Tenacious
Like a screed

It doesn’t let anything pass 
But the ember doesn’t die
It remains there
Hot
Waiting

We sometimes need so little
A tiny stimulation
To remove one by one the gray leaves
Glued
Welded
Undo the uncanny order
Of all these withering years

It sometimes takes very little
To revive
Timid
Intact
This little piece of fire
That contains the ardor and the madness of all flames 
Of all rebirths 
Of all cures

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Text by Alain Joly

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Suggestion:
Voices from Silence (other poems from the blog)

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The Final Action

“The first step is to perceive,
perceive what you are thinking,
perceive your ambition,
perceive your anxiety,
your loneliness, your despair,
this extraordinary sense of sorrow,
perceive it, without any condemnation, justification,
without wishing it to be different.
Just to perceive it, as it is.

When you perceive it as it is,
then there is a totally different kind of action taking place,
and that action is the final action.”

~ J. Krishnamurti 

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Quote by J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986)

Photo by Alain Joly

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Bibliography :
– ‘Krishnamurti’s Notebook’ – by J. Krishnamurti – (Krishnamurti Publications of America, US)

Website:
J. Krishnamurti

Suggestions:
Beauty in Essence (other pointers from the blog)
A Day at Brockwood Park (Homage to J. Krishnamurti)

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