Saturday, January 1, 2011

6th Thanks-Giving Post On The First Day Of The New Year ~ I Am Grateful To Dance My Clumsy Dance As I Celebrate All Of Who I Really Am...

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence, in order to reach forth to the enhanced place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song."
~ Pablo Neruda ~

On the first day of the New Year, as I continue with the 7 posts of Thanks-giving, I marvel at how this journey began and how I never thought that it would take me into the New Year but how glad I am that it did. Indeed, it is a wonderful reminder, ongoing, to live in gratitude. I shall hold gratitude in my heart every day all year long. Last year was a very hard year in many ways but what I learned through it all is that no matter what is happening, there are always many, many reasons to be thankful. Every post in 2011 will be a paean to gratitude and for all of my many blessings. Every day, with every breath, is a Hallelujah chorus, for even in the hardest times something is growing inside of us that we would not have learned any other way. I bow in gassho to my own life. I honor the God within. And so this is how my new year begins.

My word for the year is "Ziji" a Tibetan Buddhist word for confidence. Last year I spent much of the year afraid because my mother had just died in December changing my life in untold ways, and two of the dearest people in my life disappeared from it. I bought my first house in January 2010 and that was wonderful and exciting but it opened up a year of overwhelming responsibilities that I had never had to handle in my life. I was grateful, but terrified. I was married in a generation when the husband generally took care of things and all of a sudden it was incumbent upon me to learn to do it all. And wonder of wonders I am and I have with the help of friends and people I never knew before this year. I have certainly danced a clumsy dance and sung a sorrowful song but through it all there was brewing in me a growing confidence and now that I have lived through this first year of monumental changes and know that by hook or by crook I can handle what I need to handle and learn what I need to know. So ziji is my word for 2011. I think that it behooves us all to start the new year with a special word for the year. It becomes a beacon, a mantra, to guide us through the coming days.

I would like to share with you how I came to my word for this year because it is important to me and comes from a favorite and long-loved book, a book so worth reading I hope you will all look it up if you can. My copy is dog-eared, read and reread, and used with my students and in my life for decades. It was written by the venerable Tibetan Buddhist monk, teacher, scholar, meditation master, and founder of Naropa Institute, a Buddhist college where I spent a short time over a decade ago. His name, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The book, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Trungpa Rinpoche was also the teacher of the well known and much loved Tibetan Buddhist nun,  Pema Chödrön. It was in studying Pema's teachings and reading her many books that I learned about the teaching of maitri and eventually took the teaching as my legal name to be a guiding star and remind me what my purpose was to be in this life. When I forget, as I do, when I slip and fall, my name, the teaching, brings me back. In a shorthand version the teaching of maitri is one of loving-kindness and compassion but that we must first have it for ourselves before we have it to give to another. There is a lot of forgiveness toward ourselves and others that must be done, not something that we attain but an ongoing practice. I need ziji to help me continue my practice and so in 2011 I plan to study, again, the works of both Rinpoche and Pema, such great teachers in my life and for everyone, no matter what religious or spiritual path you follow, these are teachings that will benefit you in life.

So, ziji. In Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche writes:

"The Tibetan word for confidence is ziji. Zi means 'shine' or 'glitter,' and ji means 'splendor,' or 'dignity,' and sometimes also has the sense of 'monolithic.' So ziji expresses shining out, rejoicing while remaining dignified.

"Sometimes confidence means that, being in a choiceless state, you trust in yourself and use your savings, information, strength, good memory, and stiff upper lip, and you accelerate your aggression  and tell yourself that you are going to make it. That is the way of amateur warriors. In this case, confidence does not mean that you have confidence in something, but it is remaining in the state of confidence, free from competition or one-upmanship.This is an unconditional state in which you simply possess an unwavering state of mind that needs no reference point. There is no room for doubt; even the question of doubt does not occur. This kind of confidence contains gentleness, because the notion of fear does not arise; sturdiness, because in the state of confidence there is ever-present resourcefulness; and joy, because trusting in the heart brings a greater sense of humor. This confidence can manifest as majesty, elegance, and richness in a person's life."


And so this year I will practice ziji. In Buddhism it is never finished. It is not like riding a bicycle and once you know it you never forget. This is why we have practices, be it maitri, ziji meditation, or any one of the myriad teachings. We are students forever. We constantly fall and forget and then pick ourselves back up and start over again. We are human. The greatest Buddhist teachers were human and they too had their human faults and frailties, but they were not afraid to admit it, even laugh at themselves, and go on. We are too heavy in this world. I think of the quote by G.K. Chesterton, "Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." This year I have to shed some of the heaviness. I will gain confidence, ziji. I will practice maitri. And I will continue these practices, as a student, for the rest of my life.

In the middle of it all I will continue to dance my clumsy dances and howl at the wind singing my sorrowful songs, but I will not dwell there long. This is why we need to have a word to see us through. We needn't change our name, but we do need to remember our word. What is your word for this year?

And so now, as we begin 2011, we can learn to love ourselves, to celebrate all of who we really are (maitri) and grow the confidence that we need to live as gentle, steady, joyful people, and we can dance our clumsy dances and laugh with a great sense of humor when we fall off of our bikes, because we will get back up again and keep going on, the winds of these teachings ever at our back.

And so I wish you a year full of love, peace, joy, confidence, and laughter, and may you never stop dancing...


Francis Hunt said...

Maitri, thank you for your thoughts on ziji. Using a slightly different thought model (and are not all our concepts just models, anyway?), I often describe this state as "standing in one's own centre." From this strong point of balance one can meet the world with serenity and compassion and perceive what right action is necessary.

I wish you every blessing for the New Year

Con Artist Trickster said...

Now I know how you get tour name. I've been wondering for some time, about the relation between your name, Maitri, and Maitreya. It turns out that both arrive from Buddhism.

snore stop said...

Your blog is always fascinating to read.

Mariuca said...

Hi Maitri!! Thanks so much for visiting my new blog, ur so sweet! I hope the New Year will bring you more happy thoughts, love and peace, big hugs! :):):)

You are also on my blogroll, more hugs! :D:D:D

Victoria SkyDancer said...

My word for this year: Connection.
To make new ones and deepen the ones I already have. :-)

Blessed Be,

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