Brambles

Cut brambles long enough, sprout after sprout,

and the lotus will bloom of its own accord:

Already waiting in the clearing, the single image of light.

The day you see this, that day you will become it.

Sun Bu-er

 

It is summer in the Northern Hemisphere.   Along the central California coast, the weather is predictably unpredictable, vacillating between cool, foggy days and clear, sunny ones.  Around the neighborhood, delicate white blossoms on the blackberry bushes are transforming into plump, juicy fruit.

On my daily walks, I find myself reaching into these thorny shrubs.  Each time I laugh at myself for succumbing to the promise of a perfect berry in exchange for a few snags on my sleeve and nicks on the arm.  More than once I’ve been caught by the well-honed lure of this persistent plant.  It prompts the memory of a sweet flavor squirting in my mouth, and in turn that memory fuels my desire for one more tasty bite of berry.

Sun Bu-er, a 12th c. female Daoist master, gracefully reminds us that brambles, such as blackberries, are like unwanted thoughts and habits.  They masquerade as generous friends with the invitations of pleasure.  Yet, their true intent is their own tenacious survival by overtaking anything in their way and creating impenetrable, tangled masses.  Their sprouts are hidden beneath the surface, thus making it difficult to stop their growth.

Once the brambles are stemmed, they become extinct. Sun Bu-er offers a beautiful poetic glimpse of bramble-free consciousness. She lets us touch that awareness: It is always there, waiting to welcome our awareness. She allows us to see without seeing, and to know without knowing. And, she seems to bless us with luminous, unhindered clarity.

As the summer progresses, I will continue to notice how easily subtle enticements and distractions lure me from the path of clearing into the thicket.  I hope you will join me.

Practice

This practice supports letting go in your hands.  It can be done seated or reclined.  

  • Prepare –
    • Find a comfortable seated or reclined position. If reclined on the floor, rest on your back, drape your legs over cushion, and allow your heels to rest lightly on the floor.
    • Stretch wide through your palms and fingers. Then, gently shake the hands.
  • Practice –
    • With the backs of your hands resting your thighs. If you are reclined, rest them on the floor. Allow your palms to softly open toward the sky.
      • Invite a smooth, calming, gentle inhale and exhale.
      • From the tip of each finger, release and let go of unneeded tension across the finger and palm to the wrist.
        • Begin with the little fingers on both hands, i.e., simultaneously letting go of tension in the little fingers on both hands.
        • Then, repeat with the other four fingers: your ring fingers, middle fingers, index fingers, and lastly the thumbs.
      • Keep the sense of having let go in the fingers and palms, all your hands to roll over so the fingers are now turned downward.
        • If comfortable, silently speak to your hands. For example, “completely relax. They are free to do nothing but let go.” “I appreciate all that you do to care for me. You help me wash, nourish myself, navigate, communicate, create, give hugs…and much more.”   “For now, I make no demands on you. You are completely clear and free.”
      • Let the dialogue fade. Imagine as though with each breath, your hands and fingers release just a bit more.
        • Sit or rest quietly.
  • Transition back into your day when you are ready.

 

This poem is from Mala of the Heart: 108 Sacred Poems, page 59, Ravi Nathwani and Kate Vogt (Editors), New World Library (publisher).