A Courageous Person Who Withstands the Storm of Life

'Au ana ka Lae o Maunauna i ka 'ino.Point Maunauna swims in the storm. Said of a courageous person who withstands the storm of life. Point Maunauna (Battered) is a Waimea, O'ahu where high seas are common.

'Olelo No'eau - Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings, #234 Collected, translated and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui

I dreamt early this morning that I was walking to join friends, who were more like family, when unexpectedly I found myself atop a steep cliff.  My friends were atop another steep cliff opposite me.  We were separated by a deep valley. I had to cross the chasm in some way and felt a familiar wave of fear at the edge of the precipice.

Then I thought, with some exuberance, "This is a dream, I can just fly across!"  I still felt a little fear, but I made ready to cross.  I could have jumped right then but still some fear held me back.  Yet I also felt my determination to cross and the prospective excitement of flying.  Then my focus shifted - the precipice was not that high after all.  I jumped into a kind of soft mattress and reached the other side.

Can we be ready in life for anything? Would it help to minimize the fear of not being good enough?  How do we do that?

As a child of about eleven, I used to love to sing in an operatic kind of way.  I'd sit in the backyard on our big propane tank singing - often at the top of my lungs - to the sky and birds and trees.

One day, I heard my father chuckling. He worked as a mechanic in his repair shop next to our home.  I thought he was laughing at me.  So I stopped singing.  Even at that young age, I was afraid of not being good enough.  My zen practice has helped me to identify and work with that fear.  It pops up every now and then but is not as heavy as it used to be.

Last night I was part of a rehearsal with proficient, talented and passionate people at the Unity Temple in Oak Park designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  We were preparing for a performance this Sunday, June 1st,  called "Music of the Universe."  The title is from a beautiful poem written by Charlie Rossiter and set to music by NYC-based composer David Shenton.  Acclaimed soprano Christine Steyer will sing its verses in its world premier presentation Sunday.  Christine's voice is so rich.   She sings directly from her heart - using her body in a vibrant way - as the perfect complement to the score.

It was an honor to be amid classically trained singers doing what they love best.  Classically trained means having a strong discipline, taking the time to practice and develop technique and focus.  You must love thoroughly what you do at this level. And I'll be dancing a modern hula with mezzo-soprano Martha Kasten singing and Marta Johnson on piano.  You'll see what I mean if you're lucky enough to come to the performance!

Also in the hula world, regular practice is essential - like an athlete who works out regularly. You must make the effort to practice.  And for those of us who have injured bodies, going through dances mentally is another way to practice.

Hula Dancing at ZLMC 4th Anniversary

Speaking of practice, we held our Zen Life & Meditation Center's 4th Anniversary Appreciation BBQ and potluck last Sunday in our backyard garden.  See slide show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq3n3_JKv70. For mobile units: http://youtu.be/gBjCg1EnV6w.  The weather was perfect, and I delighted in seeing my zen and hula family practice the art of enjoyment.

I made a chicken adobo, the only meat dish, that was a sell-out!  That's a term my mom used when nothing is left over.  We had all kinds of delicious food like quinoa with coconut and mango, couscous, hummus, fresh corn salad, and a banquet of desserts!

I think that we especially appreciate this kind of time if we've been working through challenges in life.  Going through the storms of life - both inner or outer.  These storms can either seriously mess up our lives or be our teachers.  They can teach us to get in touch with parts of ourselves that we may not be comfortable with.  Fear certainly fits this category.

Part of our practice of living a zen-inspired (and hula-inspired) life is how we work with negative emotions.  We are human, they arise.   How do we stand courageously and bear witness to these emotions without judging ourselves or others?  How do we dance with fear?

A way to build courage is to practice a skill until we are confident in our abilities.  That very confidence can become our teacher, our bridge to the courage to become proficient.

I think in the final analysis love conquers fear.  The very essence of our being is love and courage.  We take baby steps through the difficulties of life to build courage by doing things that we'd prefer not to do but know that we must. We open to and sit with feelings we have but want to disown.  We practice watching judgments arise and letting them go. We need fear to practice courage. We need courage to reach the peak beyond courage and fear.

by Rev. June Ryushin Tanoue