'Red Hollyhock 2'
You're crying. You say you've burned yourself.
But can you think of anyone who's not hazy with smoke?
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Robert L. F. Habito -
A Catholic sister came to a profound experience that brought her to tears during a Zen retreat. The words that arose from the depth of her being, accompanied by many tears, were "I am innocent."
She was indeed gifted with a glimpse of her 'original nature,' as she was able to experience this realm of the holy and blameless in her practice of silent sitting.
*Living Zen, Loving God.
* * *
February 28.2008 -
I sat in my chair, disturbed by a sense of failure and feeling guilt, still struggling for healing of brokenness. I saw what appeared as my failure again, very personal, and the sight flowed through the mind like a dirty piece of dogged debris that kept returning to travel the same stream, year after year, day after day, muddying the clarity of the waters.
I thought, "Here I am, again, feeling this failure". Suddenly, everything changed, for I was introduced to the truth of my being innocently broken like so many others - not sinful in the sense of my fundamentalist religious upbringing. Right away, for possibly the first time in my life, I rejoiced at Grace showing me my true nature: innocence.
What a relief! and the heart filled with gladness and gratitude. I saw myself as I had never before seen myself. What a gift!
* * *
Innocence, our pristine nature, is not after being forgiven or after enlightenment or after liberation, not after anything. Innocence is prior to everything, untouched by time, so past, present, or future. We do not have to return to a Garden of Eden or arrive at a Nirvana to be that we are.
* * *
Life itself is innocent; all kinds of things, gentle and violent, happen in life on Earth, but life remains untouched by any meanness or goodness. Life is just being life.
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Innocent is pure for having no contrast. You cannot even say rightly, "I am innocent, for I am not guilty."
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At first, we might have infrequent glimpses of innocence, with time, innocence we see everywhere. What we are really seeing is not my innocence, his innocence, her innocence, but innocence.
* * *
The question is, however, "Do you want to see innocence?" That might seem like a weird question. Someone could say, "Of course! doesn't everyone?" Maybe, yet, do not most of us cling to seeing guilt and excluding innocence in others or ourselves, for such we are used to, such validates some narrative we have. Like, "I'm just unworthy, after all I've done." Feeling guilty or irreparably damaged can be a big ego trip, and may serve a temporary function, after that, it is self-induced misery.
* * *
One of the blessings, and one I had to be aware of, when working as a chaplain in corrections, was the awareness of this innocence in the men and women behind bars. I was graced to see the innocence in them they could not see in themselves. I was aware, likewise, these men and women were legally guilty of acts that led to incarceration. I did not take that lightly. I learned not to trust them. I learned I could not trust them, for the safety of the entire team I worked with was dependent on not trusting them. So, I learned to appreciate the innocence the inmates each were, yet to take seriously the guilt of their actions and society's need to be protected from some persons.
See, one act of much-needed compassion in our world is persons who acknowledge the innocence in those who cannot do that for themselves. When we see the innocence we are, we are more likely to see it in others.
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Alan Watts -
As a result of our social conventions, we all feel ourselves to be strangers in the world. We are disconnected from it all, and it is something that "happens" to us that we endure passively, and that we receive passively. And we never get to the point where we realize we are actually doing the whole thing! It is up to you. You make your troubles, and you put yourself into a trap. You confuse yourself, and forget that you did it, and then ask how to get out of it!
*What Is Zen?
One way we feel strangers in the world, alienated from Nature and others, is this sense that we are really, after all is said and done, not very good at all. We esteem ourselves little and warped - to think otherwise is to be unrealistic and proud. Humility, then, becomes this small thinking. And, while we may have been shaped to feel this way by others who feel the same way about themselves, waking up spiritually means we no longer passively accept this guiltiness, this "I'm just a saved sinner." After all, we are in the likeness of Grace Itself, we are embodiments of the Divine. The narrative of our past right-deeds and mis-deeds did not, and never have, defined us or tarnished that we are. When we realize our innate beauty and grace, we can easily see that in others and, thereby, possibly help them come to see it for themselves.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Rumi verse a translation by Coleman Barks. Source unknown.
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher FirstBooks. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.