Little Glimpses

Little Glimpses are short personal reflections by Pir Elias.

 

Under my heart I cup a secret.
I’d like to share it with you.
Come close. Look there.
Oh! It’s gone!

glyphThe earth is folded in valleys and mountains,
each making each other.

On my death my children will bow to me,
each making each other.

When you saw me down by the shed we waved,
each making each other.

Breathing in, breathing out, goodbye, hello,
each making each other.

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A small bird lights on the winter branch outside my window. She folds her wings and settles her black-capped head into her shoulder feathers. The enormous interiority of winter sits behind her eyes. She has nowhere to go and doesn’t mind.

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You would like to know how to live better. You would like to know how to get out of your own way. When you wake this morning you promise just that to the light spreading in your brain. But later when the toast burns you feel the old resistance of a world that doesn’t share your promise. You mutter a swear word. The smell of burnt toast sneaks into the house. And then, unaccountably, you smile. The burnt smell is giving you back your promise like an offering of temple incense.

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Stillness pervades movement just as movement pervades stillness.

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My father said he felt sad about dying because he wouldn’t be able to see how things turned out. He said it was like leaving the cinema in the middle of a movie. A few months later he lay down and died.

I’m still here, looking around. It is dawn just now and the first sunlight is touching the mountaintop behind my house. This is how things have turned out. My daughters and my son will see that too, after I lay down and die. That will be how things turn out.

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Three bobcats walked by in the snow this morning, just at dawn, looking like fat tigers. I’ve been told they are shy, but they didn’t look shy, not anyway like squirrels or deer are shy. They padded to the edge of the arroyo and sat on their haunches looking down, their glances moving slowly from place to place. They were unconcerned. Noble. I bowed to them, my unexpected teachers.

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I was touched by a documentary film I saw the other night about the human body. It was one of those films with microscopic images of cells moving, dividing, bumping into each other, sperm cells wriggling into eggs, blood cells pulsing through capillaries.

I felt like a voyeur gazing into a private, hidden world; the cells’ intimate transactions, usually performed in darkness inside the body, were now made luminescent in the camera’s eye.

“There are a hundred trillion cells in your body,” the narrator told me. Each one with its instructions, each one finding its way somehow, each one making its offering.

As I sat in meditation this morning, unmoving, my body seemed to me like a mountain, a mountain of cells all busy with their tasks, pulsing, trembling, traveling, while the whole mountain rested quietly in stillness. The hundred trillion cells of my body don’t know about me, they don’t know what they are making possible. I don’t know about them either, or what makes them so dedicated. I wonder if today my life will be worthy of their dedication.

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God is not other. There is no other. God is the spontaneous life of this moment, the universal ebullience that leaves no trace. This means you and me.

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Vanity has two faces: human vanity and God’s vanity. Human vanity is unstable, depending on what is impermanent to support it, like the thought of how others see us. God’s vanity depends on nothing but pure exuberance, like a hat sailing in the air.

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The trick is to completely inhabit each moment, to fill out your skin so there is no space between “you” and your “perceptions.” Then the tree over there is not the tree over there and you are not you over here. No tree, no you, just this, just just.

Okay, but what about thoughts, like this one? Doesn’t thinking pull you back, keep you at a distance from inhabiting each moment?

We think we are thinking — but thoughts come like notes played by an unseen piper. You hear them coming through the forest and then they are gone. Thinking and you-ing all at once — no thought, no you, just

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Nothing can take away joy from the one who loves without wanting.

Nothing can take away joy from the one who sees the unmade light.

Nothing can take away joy from the one who doesn’t hold onto it.