The Hidden Singer

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The Hidden Singer

“The gods are less for their love of praise.
Above and below them all is a spirit that needs nothing
but its own wholeness, its health and ours.
It has made all things by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come together —
the seer and the seen, the eater and the eaten,
the lover and the loved.
In our joining it knows itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods whose names crest in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly and waits, and sings.”

Wendell Berrry

Itʻs so easy to take sides.  Our political system seems to be crazy right now with principles of truth and decency getting lost in the haze - a perfect recipe for taking sides and creating anger.  

And I must admit that I have felt very angry during the current Supreme Court Justice hearings.  But I was also curious about my anger and able to notice it instead of blindly reacting and doing or saying something stupid because of it.  This little distance from which I saw my anger made a big difference.  

But what about depression and feeling overwhelmed?  Can I also be curious about sadness and how it feels in my body?  I noticed depression recently in the midst of packing up one of our apartments.  I felt an indescribable sense of being very tired mentally and physically.  My body felt tight, and my shoulders felt heavy as if a great weight was upon them.  

I decided to just sit and let myself feel these sensations in my body.  I had to work with my attention to stay focused on the feelings because I knew I was resistant to bearing witness to them.  I could easily have jumped up into my head and indulged in stories to distract me from my dis-ease.  

Just noticing my thoughts, without judgment, and returning to the uncomfortable feelings in my body is one process of hoʻomanawanuʻi (being patient) and kind to yourself.   It means bearing witness with loving, respectful attention to what is happening in your body without being distracted by the many stories of your mind.  Thatʻs the pause that heals.  Mindfulness meditation helps with this ability to pause.

Going to my mind when Iʻm upset is the path to circular ruminations about how Iʻm not good enough or how others are wrong.  Iʻve gone down that path before and know that it only fuels the fire of depression and anger.  It does nothing for truth.

Can I notice how I feel without having to change the feeling?  Can I be curious about my reactions?  After calming down, can I feel angerʻs transformation into something else - perhaps determination? Meditation truly helps my focus on where i want to pay attention.

I was impressed with Dr. Christine Blasey Fordʻs testimony - how she wove neuroscience, her specialty, into descriptions of her traumatic experiences.  Her honesty, intelligence and vulnerability were evident during her presentation and the subsequent questioning.   She was very courageous to come forward as she said, "to do her civic duty."

I liked what Zen priest and teacher Norman Fischer said about Judge Kavanaugh and the commotion around him.     "None of this would be happening if he had said, ʻyeah I did drink a whole lot when I was young, I had so much pressure to succeed and knew I would have to so needed to blow off steam while I could. Like other young men in my world I was insensitive to women. But my Catholic upbringing kicked in finally and I really did become a different person. I can't remember having done this but if I did I am truly mortified and deeply sorry.  I also would like to know the truth.ʻ"

Itʻs a beautiful warm October day.  The breezes are blowing, leaves are changing color.  Meditation helps me clearly see how truth, integrity and compassion are essential.  Determination helps me be courageous and vulnerable like a little bird who sings quietly and waits, and sings - even as the environment and my thoughts swirl about like falling leaves.

Malama pono (take good care of body, mind and heart),

Sensei June Kaililani Ryushin Tanoue

Kumu Hula and Sensei


Robert Althouse

Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, 38 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL, 60302