15 December 2008

मुसिंग्स ओं सोल्स्तिस

About 10 years ago, I found an eight-inch Miwok pestle grown into the rootball of a fallen giant in the forest at the Vedanta Retreat at Olema. Miwok used these to grind acorns for flour, they say. And the miracle of finding such a thing after the hundreds of years it had slept inside the soil of that rootball did not escape me. But I spent the next two hours looking for the mortar that went with it. Then I returned to the Retreat House and showed Swami Prabuddhananda the pestle. I asked him if I could keep it, and he responded, "Oh, if you must."

Then I told him of a day in the mountains in Colorado when I was sitting with my feet dragging in the water on either side of the point of a small island in the stream. In the midst of that, I understood the connectiveness of all things, matter and energy flows, essentially the whole of everything. I saw the whole of creation, of eternity, of the way that planets are atoms and solar systems molecules, snowbanks are sandunes. And even though it had been 25 years before, the absolute magic of that moment stayed with me. I was still trying to get that back. Just like I was trying to find the mortar. I couldn't see how it was possible for me ever to be satisfied if that were my character.

He said a couple of things. First, that the Miwok probably didn't carry their mortars, but just used rocks with hollows in them in situ. Why would they carry something that was all around them on the ground? The pestle, on the other hand, was a tool and valuable, because rare. So they would have taken that with them. That it was important to know what was which and not to carry the heavy mortar when you don't need to.

Second thing he said was that enlightenment comes and goes. And that I had probably been enlightened many times in my lifetime, but still hadn't gotten to the point of realizing that like everything else, it wasn't something I could hold onto. But I could use that experience to inform my perceptions of everything going forward. And so I try, lugging along the mortar, sometimes, and sometimes the pestle, sometimes enlightened, sometimes too in the dark to light the candle in my hand.

When I typed the Title on this blog, it translated my words, "Musings on the Solstice" into sanskrit letters. I have no idea what they mean. But I'm satisfied that this is what it is. May enlightenment catch up with you today, and may you be so enlightened that you don't try to hold onto it! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.


Anonymous said...

A beautiful story.

We all have our mortar to lug, but it's getting to the destination, or enlightenment, that's the hard part. Finding that inner peace is not an easy journey, but one I am willing to take.


Mugsy Peabody said...

Good luck, Carol!

Anonymous said...


Obviously, the Muses have lit upon your shoulders and entered into your consciousness this month. I laugh and I weep when I read your writing.

Mugsy Peabody said...

Such an honor coming from you, Dearheart.

mary lou said...

a good story, mugsy. i had stopped coming to your blog, but your wow comment brought me back. by the way, i think today (dec 21) is the solstice. spell it soulstice. as the buddha says, "impermanence surrounds me."

a holiday hug,
mary lou

Anonymous said...

"One of the most important insights of the Taoists was the realization that transformation and change are essential features of nature . . . The Taoists saw all changes in nature as manifestations of the dynamic interplay between the polar opposites yin and yang, and thus they came to believe that any pair of opposites constitutes a polar relationship where each of the two poles is dynamically linked to the other."

--Fritjof Capra, "The Tao of Physics"

Earth Caretakers said...

Historical note: Cahuilla women (Riverside County) each had a pestle used only during the woman's lifetime, and buried with her. In the North (Tolay Lake, Sonoma county) stone "tools" were broken and tossed into the (former) lake so no one could use or access their power.In other words, the spirit, energy, and essence of the person's tools were embodied, or contained by, the tools themselves.
I suspect you could talk to that pestle and learn a good deal about other times, other dimensions, and even enlightenment!

Mugsy Peabody said...

Thanks, Megan! I've often thought about finding the pestle and the way I attached meaning to it in terms of what archeologists posit about the items they find. What was truly amazing was that I found it at all. Had I not been meditating in the woods that day, I might well have walked past it, as others already had done, without seeing it at all. xo, mp