Monday, January 18, 2010

“progress in understanding one’s self”

My mother died more than five years ago. When I cleared out the house in Sebastopol I threw away lots of stuff. But I kept as much writing or handmade work as I could. I brought it back in boxes and crates to the house in Berkeley. There was really no place to put it all so it stacked up in corners.

Now that the upstairs renovation is done, Kent and I are trying to find places for all the things we really want to keep. And if we don’t really want to keep it? Move it on out into the world. This weekend Kent took boxes of books and clothes to Out of the Closet, an AIDS charity thrift store.

One pile gone, umpteen to go.

In her last years Mom found a friend in Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher. In going through a box just now I came across Old Path White Clouds: walking in the footsteps of the Buddha, a fat book of teachings and stories (legends?) about the Buddha. Mom marked pages 146 & 147 which give a thumbnail of the Buddha’s central teaching. “The Buddha began serenely … ‘The path I have discovered is the Middle Way, which avoids both extremes and has the capacity to lead one to understanding, liberation, and peace.’” (Mom’s emphasis)

On the inside back cover Mom’s handwriting notes, “Humility and open-mindedness are necessary for making progress.”

Then, dated 8/27/00 Sunday, Mom questions the preceding, “Where did I find? This statement is not complete. I’m sure that ‘progress’ refers to progress in understanding one’s self -- Not ‘progress’ in mechanical, non-feeling technology.’”

She adds two book recommendations. “Books I like – by David Darling Soul Search and Zen Physics.”