Thursday, November 19, 2009

a drop of ink

An old friend just reminded me of something I said to her many years ago and I was happy to be reminded. It's an image I use when I'm confronted by suffering -- my own or someone else's.

I imagine that whatever is causing the suffering -- physical pain, a thought or an emotion, someone's behavior or our own actions -- is like a drop of ink. When the ink is dropped into a cup, it colors the water. When it's dropped into a big bowl, it becomes dispersed, and the water turns gray. When it drops into the ocean, there's no color left at all.

This is an important part of our work in becoming human beings who are free and useful -- to create a spacious container for our suffering -- to be open and present to whatever is here, and to everything else that is not the suffering.

Sometimes we contract -- it's human nature, and it's not a bad thing. Sometimes we expand, and that's not a bad thing either. Rumi speaks about this in his poem "Birdwings" as translated by Coleman Barks:

Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
Up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
Here's the joyful face you've been waiting to see.

Your hand opens and close and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
You would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small
Contracting and expanding,
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
As birdwings.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Melissa,

    I was thinking still of this post while reading "The Infinite Circle" by Bernie Glassman and he referred to an experiment done by the physicist David Bohm ( dealing with Ink Drops:


    "The holomovement is, admittedly, a rather subtle concept to grasp; indeed, it is generally invisible to us. Bohm proposes that the holomovement consists of two fundamental aspects: the explicate order and the implicate order. He illustrates the concept of the implicate order by analogy to a remarkable physical phenomenon. Consider a cylindrical jar with a smaller concentric cylinder (of the same height) inside it that has a crank attached, so that the inner cylinder can be rotated while the outer cylinder remains stationary. Now fill the annular volume between the two cylinders with a highly viscous fluid, such as glycerine, so that there is negligible diffusion. If a droplet of ink is placed in the fluid, and the inner cylinder is turned slowly, the ink drop will be stretched out into a fine, thread-like form that becomes increasingly thinner and fainter until it finally disappears altogether. At this point it is tempting to conclude that the ink drop has been thoroughly mixed into the glycerine, so that its order has been rendered chaotic and random. However, if the inner cylinder is now rotated slowly in the opposite direction, the thin ink form will reappear, retrace its steps, and eventually reconstruct itself into its original form of the drop again. Such devices have been constructed, and the effect is quite dramatic."

    The pain and suffering is always there, sometimes we don't see it and sometimes we do. And not seeing it isn't bad necessarily if the not seeing isn't due to ignorance but instead because we just carry on with our life entering each moment with a compassionate heart for everyone and everything in that moment including ourselves. So that even with the pain present we don't see it and it doesn't matter because we respond to it in whatever best way we can.