04 Jul What Happened To The East Of My House?
This heartfelt letter was sent to Gregory after his Commentary "The Teacher" was published. Vicki is a current student of Gregory’s and has been for over 19 years since his days in Escondido where he taught formally at the Center For Spiritual Awakening. She has been unconsciously allowing her practice to deteriorate and suddenly came to a moment of realization about what has been happening.
"I was so moved by this email that I wanted to share it with all of you. Many of you may find that this is happening to you without realizing it. May this serve you well.
Metta to you..."
The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. ~ Thomas Moore
It happened once that a Chinese Master had an American disciple. When the disciple was going back the Master gave him a present, a small carved wooden box, and he said, “One condition always has to be followed; if you give this box to somebody else, then the condition has to be fulfilled. Promise! Because I have been fulfilling this promise, and this is not a new thing. It’s a very ancient thing and for many, many generations the condition has been fulfilled.”
The disciple said, “I will fulfill it.” It was such a beautiful thing, so valuable, so ancient, he said, “Whatsoever the condition I will fulfill it!”
The Master said, “The condition is simple: you have to keep it in your house facing east. And this has always been done, so be respectful to the tradition.”
The disciple said, “This is very simple, I will do it.”
But when he put the box facing east, then he came to understand that it was very difficult, because his whole arrangement in the drawing-room became absurd. That box facing east would not adjust. So he had to change the whole house. Then the garden became absurd! Then he felt exhausted. He wrote to the Master: “This box is dangerous! I will have to change the whole world-because if I also change my garden, then next it will be the neighborhood…”
I have always loved this particular story. But...what happened?
This morning I was reading the Commentary and came to a lone line toward the top of the page: “To this day, I am still a devoted student in all ways.” Somehow it stopped me in my tracks.
I looked around my house.
I had been getting ready “mentally” to do my meditation after my reading and coffee (a clue!), and I wanted to light some incense, which I only do occasionally now. Why? I can’t find the East of my house. I usually just sit in the recliner where I do my reading (and eating, and watching TV and everything else).
Somehow over the years I have rearranged, discarded, made comfy, utilitarian, more accessible, all of the stuff to accommodate the aging life of gratification into which I am rapidly slipping. Actually, tumbling. Really…galloping. The truth is the small little shoman I have left is stuck on top of a mutli-purpose night table up against the wall in a corner behind my bed. It looks better there, out of the way. Much too difficult to get to for a mere stick of incense. Not worth it. I realized my “house with no East” told the story.
There was a time when I had the big custom made piece from the Center For Spiritual Awakening. It housed the smaller shoman we used in the meditation room there. It held a place of honor in the center of my living room wall. But somehow over the years it became bulky and seemed a waste of space, so I just removed the smaller shoman housed in its center and put it on a table. More practical. Then, finally in the last couple of years when a friend gave me her old TV screen, I put the new, convenient screen on the wall and began to rearrange my living room (my bedroom also, since I use my bedroom as my office) around the TV. Just the latest in a long line of shifts since my husband died. What a metaphor!
I looked up this morning and had a moment of clarity. What has become of that student? That practice?
It was like looking back over an old and wilted marriage. I remember my early love affair with it when each new “kiss” was exhilarating. It held some sort of promise for me. Now after 27 years, it’s become just one more bad business deal. Didn’t pan out. One I’m too old, too stuck in to move beyond.
What the hell happened? My God, but doesn’t it seem I’ve taken everything in my life for granted?!
I looked around and the poet in me immediately got the metaphor. I started looking for how I could change my home to get back to putting my meditation space in the center of my living. I couldn’t even figure out a way to re-arrange it again! It just didn’t work.
After a little space and a walk with the dog, I have seen a possible starting place…with the house, and possibly with myself. I don’t know what all of this means, but it will take much focus and constant vigilance to see where I am and what my practice, my house, my life is showing me moment to moment. The “I” is afraid that this precious thing is too far lost to find my way back to it, if indeed I was ever on that Path. And looking back, it doesn’t seem like it.
I wanted to write this to you because I don’t want to forget...I have indeed drunk from the well. There is so much going on this day inside of me, I need to carefully attend, to possibly separate the emotion out. Thank you for being in my life. ~ Vicki