Welcome, traveler! Enter and take your rest...

A chaikhana is a teahouse along the legendary Silk Road pilgrimage and trading route linking China to the Middle East and Europe. It is a place of rest along the journey, a place to shake off the dust of the road, to sip tea, and to gather together to sing songs of the Divine...



Boundaries

by Lynn Ungar

 

The universe does not
revolve around you.
The stars and planets spinning
through the ballroom of space
dance with one another
quite outside of your small life.
You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless nor ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.
Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again. Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?

-- from Bread and Other Miracles, by Lynn Ungar


/ Image by Matt Brown /

View All Poems by Lynn Ungar


You cannot hold gravity
or seasons; even air and water
inevitably evade your grasp.
Why not, then, let go?


We want to cement ourselves and our place within the wider reality. We want to grasp, hold, own, and so stop change and uncertainty. But reality slips through our fingers. Everything is fluid, as are we ourselves.

You could move through time
like a shark through water,
neither restless nor ceasing,
absorbed in and absorbing
the native element.


This is such a startling image. A koi or a minnow suggests a serene, easily forgotten metaphor, but a shark makes a point! Part of why a shark is so ferocious is because it is ferociously at one with its environment. They say that sharks never stop swimming, but sharks are not restless. They do not struggle and exhaust themselves amidst the ocean currents. They cruise with a quiet fearlessness through their realm.

It is a form of communion they express, "absorbed in and absorbing / the native element." The shark is in the water and the water is in the shark. They are one.

Why pretend you can do otherwise?
The world comes in at every pore,
mixes in your blood before
breath releases you into
the world again.


It raises the question, what is a boundary? When we move through the environment at the same time that the environment moves through us, where is the border line between ourselves and everything else?

Did you think
the fragile boundary of your skin
could build a wall?


We tend to talk about unity and interconnectedness on spiritual levels, but we forget that it is just as true in the physical realm, and in every level in between. Everything we identify with, our emotions, thoughts, health, our very breath, are not possessions that exist in a private isolation. Everything is an interaction with the environment. Everything is part of the cycle of inflow and outflow.

This raises an unsettling question: How then do we protect ourselves from the disharmonies and toxicity of the world around us? There are a few ways to answer this, but I am going to give a harsh answer this time: How do we protect ourselves? We don't. We are in the world and the world is in us. What happens in the world happens in us. The world is us and we are the world.

Whether we are talking about nature or human emotions, disharmony and toxicity is never just "out there" to be stopped at the border of the skin or one's private thoughts and feelings. We don't avoid, we can't. We participate. We hurt with our fellow beings as much as we delight with them.

They. Us. Where is the boundary, really? We participate in a shared experience of being.

But-- and this is important, it is not just about the outside coming in. There is also the outbreath. What is inside also flows outward into the world. This is where the power of the individual truly expresses itself. We may take in hurt, pain, poison, but we can, if we choose, pour out love, healing, joy. And that too becomes part of the natural environment in which we all swim with our porous boundaries.

I don't want to suggest that I believe that boundaries are not real or necessary. They are. But boundaries are more like membranes than walls. Whether we are speaking about the physical body in the natural environment, the psychological self within society, or even national borders, no boundary is lasting or impermeable. Nor should it be.

The more we identify with our boundaries, the more harshly we try to enforce them as absolute and unchanging, which is inherently doomed to failure. But the more we identify with the heart, with our core, the less important those boundaries seem, and we allow them to function as living membranes of exchange, while we are free to navigate the world without fear.

Listen. Every molecule is humming
its particular pitch.
Of course you are a symphony.
Whose tune do you think
the planets are singing
as they dance?


It is not about separation of self from other. Ultimately, such a separation is impossible. There is no real separation.

We vibrate, we hum. We are caught up in a grand universal symphony. We tune each other and are harmonized by the whole.

We sing, whether we realize it or not. Which song are we singing?



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