Do you know the Leonard Cohen song If it be Your Will? Do you know the Antony Hegarty version? More and more, I see this whole Inner Beauty Pilgrimage to the Sacred-Ordinary Everywhere as the heart's burning, the soul's at-long-last marriage to the body to the world to the companions of each day's rising and falling again into night. Moment by moment, vows converge on feeling what I feel & knowing what I know. I converge on kindness.
If it be your will
Right now, these burning hearts in hell lands with a sense of kinship. Oh, yes: our burning hearts. Everyone's burning heart, burning for this and for that (it seems), but really, just burning. The blue shoes, the bacon ice-cream, our longed-for bodies, that gaze, that other, better place, that respite among the flames. Our burning hearts, unresolved and unresolvable, doing what they do.
We are broken in the most beautiful ways: a broken foot, another broken foot, a gimpy knee, kidney stones, cancer, divorce, addiction, recovery, depression, a sick child. And full of grace. A friend reaches out to tell me her relationship has ended, just at the same time that exhaustion has forced her temporarily out of school, her mother's knee is busted, her family is moving across the country, her grandmother's dying, and her uncle is drinking again. All burning. I've chanted it again and again, in the Fire Sermon, but somehow never heard it so sweetly.
I wake at 3AM and lay in bed for hours, burning with story upon story, longing upon longing. In the third watch of the night, I come to rest in this great heart beating here, doing its work of waking up and burning in the world. Anything that isn't grounded in that refuge, anything that believes the forms of longing while not at the same time looking through them to the great heart itself, is just samsara. Let's try something else, this time around.
Body feels different this morning: center of gravity has shifted down, and feels lush. I am pregnant with being. It occurs to me that weathering last night's heart-storm is not so dissimilar to weathering psychedelic experience. Being-with. Staying-with. Not buying into rainbows or monsters. I know now that whatever strategies I might use to distract me from the intensity of the heart's burning will wind up being far more painful than the burning itself. In the past, I've tried this:
May all beings find confidence and compassion to be with their burnings, to hold them close, and to work responsibly to give them form in the world. Knowing how we ourselves burn, may we hold all beings' burning with kindness.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now