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Our Rabbit Time, Our Cat Story (the “missing” Sunday post) January 22, 2023

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Books, Buddhism, Changing Perspectives, Faith, Healing Stories, Life, Loss, Love, Music, New Year, Philosophy, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“Happy (Lunar) New Year!” to those who are celebrating.

This is the “missing” post for Sunday, January 22nd. You can request an audio recording the related practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.

“Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind – not in things, not in ‘scenery.’ Molière said that for the theatre all he needed was a platform and a passion or two. The climax of this play needs only five square feet of boarding and the passion to know what life means to us.”

– quoted from the “Preface” of Three Plays: Our Town, The Matchmaker, and The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder

What does life mean to you? More specifically, what does your life mean to you and how are you spending this time you have been given? How could you spend your time in a way that reflects what your life means to you?

I ask some variation of these questions on a fairly regular basis. People all over the world may ask themselves some variation of these questions during moments of great upheaval, moments of great challenge, and/or moments of great change. These questions are at the heart of most works by Thornton Wilder, but are especially poignant and salient in his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town, which premiered today in 1938, at the McCarter Theater in Princeton, New Jersey, and then opened in Boston before its Broadway premiere at Henry Miller’s Theatre on February 4, 1938.

In the preface to a collection of three of his plays, Thornton Wilder not only indicated what he was doing with his work, but why he was doing it. He wrote, “Every action which has ever taken place – every thought, every emotion – has taken place only once, at one moment in time and place. ‘I love you,’ ‘I rejoice,’ ‘I suffer,’ have been said and felt many billions of times, and never twice the same. Every person who has ever lived has lived an unbroken succession of unique occasions. Yet the more one is aware of this individuality in experience (innumerable! innumerable!) the more one becomes attentive to what these disparate moments have in common, to repetitive patterns.” Then he questioned how we tell our stories – our truths – and how different mediums have different powers. Theatre, he believed, elevates individual experiences to universal experiences in a way that transcends single moments in time.

Our Town is a play-within-a-play, with the “external” play taking place in the theater where the play is being presented and the “interior” play taking place in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire (beginning on May 7, 1901). In addition to the Stage Manager, who “breaks the fourth wall” by introducing the audience to the scenario and offering commentary throughout the play, Our Town focuses on the inhabitants of Grover’s Corners. In particular, it focuses on young Emily Webb and George Gibb.

The young couple do things that many people do in the span of 12 years. They grow up, they fall in love, they get married, they start a family. They also lose people they love. In fact, the final act of the play takes place on a hilltop cemetery overlooking the town and is all about loss. It begins with the Stage Manager’s monologue about all the things that changed –as well as all the things that stayed the same between the second act and the summer of 1913, which marks the end of the play. It references many people who died before the play every began and older characters that died during the time period of the play. Then the Stage Manager gets to one of the great tragedies of the play: young Emily Webb died giving birth to her second child. When Emily is given the chance to re-experience one single moment of her life, she chooses her 12th birthday.

“EMILY…. – (She flings her arms wide in an ecstasy of realization) Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you! (Thinking a moment, she half-turns to the STAGE MANAGER, questioning more gently:) Does any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?

STAGE MANAGER. (Quietly) No – Saints and poets maybe – they do some.”

– quoted from Act III of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

For many people around the world, including the people in the fictional Grover’s Corners, birthdays are a time of celebration. A time when family and friends gather together to celebrate someone and to wish them well as the begin their next journey around the sun. The older a person gets – the more they live – the more likely they are to not only celebrate, but also to reflect. The longer someone lives they more opportunities they have to look back at how they have spent their time and consider how they want to move forward. Birthdays, after all, are liminal moments, threshold moments, and – when we think of them as personal new year’s days – they are new beginnings.

Of course, any time we are beginning, we must ask ourselves, “How do we begin?”

“STAGE MANAGER…. How do such things begin? George and Emily are going to show you now the conversation they had when they first knew that – as the saying goes – they were meant for one another. But before they do that I want you to try and remember what it was like to have been very young, and particularly the days when you were first in love; when you were like a person sleep-walking, and you didn’t quite see the street you were walking in, and you didn’t quite hear everything that was said to you. You’re just a little bit crazy. Will you remember that, please?”

– quoted from Act II of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

The following is a revised excerpt from the post dated February 1, 2022. It includes some year-specific revisions. 

“May all of us together be protected;

may all of us together be nourished;

may we work together with great energy;

my our study together be brilliant and effective;

may we not hate or dispute with one another;

may there be peace within us, peace all around us, peace to and from everything and everyone we encounter.”

– “Teaching Santipat,” Sanskrit chanting by Richard Freeman (when we are in the studio)

On a certain level, there is always a question about how to begin… anything.

Just sticking to the physical practice for the moment, though: Is it best to begin in Child’s Pose, which by it’s simple physicality requires us to turn (and curl) inward? Or is it better to begin on one’s back, which promotes a certain amount of openness? Both have symbolic benefits as they relate to our lives and our practice – as does starting in a seated position on our sits-bones, which can also cultivate mindful awareness and a certain openness to wisdom. Having options, and being aware of the different benefits of the options, is a wonderful thing and I general encourage people to start where they are comfortable. However, I usually have a suggestion. After all, the beginning is an indication of how we mean to go forward.

In Chapter 17 of All of Grace, the Reverend Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.” Known as “the Prince of Preachers,” The Reverend Spurgeon was an English Particular Baptist, who was specifically offering advice about “The Fear of Final Falling,” or not being able to persevere on a righteous path; however, a lot of people consider his advice as applicable to all situations. Even if you are not particularly religious (or not religious at all), it would behoove you to start – anything – by connecting with the breath (which is a symbol of your life-force and your spirit) and letting that connection be your guide as you move forward.

Naturally, that is one aspect of how every physical practice of yoga begins. But, many practices also start with a chant – or you can think of it as an intention, a wish, or even a prayer or blessing. When I am leading the practice, I generally start with an English translation of the “Teaching Shantipat.” It is a very definitive declaration of how I would like to move forward. Every once in a blue moon, I use a meditation chant from Swami Jnaneshvara, that is specific to deep-seated mediation. Then too, there are times when the occasion calls for a big welcome or cheer – that sometimes comes in a different language.

“财神到 财神到
Caishen dao caishen dao [The god of wealth has come! The god of wealth has come!]

Hao xinde hao bao [Good news]

财神话 财神话
Caishenhua caishenhua [Myth of money, myth of money]

wen qian yi zhenglu [if you follow the right path]”

– quoted from the song “Cai Shen Dao” [“The God of Wealth Has Come!” by Sam Hui, lyrics in Hanzi [Chinese characters], pīnyīn [“spelled sounds”], and English

Today is the beginning of the Lunar New Year. While many East and Southeast Asian cultures celebrate at the same time – and even though there are some similarities to celebrations held at other times of the year – each culture has different rituals and traditions that connect people with their extended families, ancestors, and heritage. For example, the Chinese lunisolar calendar designates this year is the year of the (water) Rabbit/Hare. In Vietnam, however, people are celebrating the year of the Cat (which is the only major deviation in the two Zodiacs).

In parts of China and the diaspora, the beginning of the New Year is also the beginning of the Spring Festival, a fifteen day celebration that culminates with the Lantern Festival. Even though each day of the Lunar New Year has a special significance, each region has different stories and traditions related to that significance. For example, according to one Chinese creation story, different animals are celebrated depending on when they were created; thus, today is the birthday of all chickens. Others are celebrating the birthday of the water god and, therefore, will not wash their hair or their clothes on the first two days of the new year. Some Buddhist people celebrate the birth of Maitreya Buddha on the first day of the lunar new year and spend New Year’s Day, as well as several days leading up to the first day, chanting, praying, and/or meditating (depending on their beliefs). People will also light candles and make offerings at the temple before their feasting begins.

Even though there are some differences between regions and cultures, there are some common elements. The Lunar New Year celebrations generally include extended family coming together; the welcoming of ancestors and (in some households) the welcoming of household deities (like the water god); red clothes, red decorations, and red envelopes; fireworks, parades, and loud noises, a bit of feasting, and (of course), the wish, prayer, blessing, or shout for prosperity: “Cai Shen Dao! [The God of Wealth has come! in Mandarin]”

Since the (secular) Gregorian calendar is a solar calendar, the Lunar New Year falls at different times according to the Western schedule. As I mentioned before, this year’s Spring Festival coincides with the premiere anniversary of Our Town, a play that offers us all some great reminders about what it is good to remember as we move forward:

“STAGE MANAGER….. – Now there are some things we all know but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always letting go of that fact. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

– quoted from Act III of Our Town by Thornton Wilder

Sunday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

“When the firstborn, P’an Ku [a primordial being in Chinese mythology], was approaching death, his body was transformed. His breath became the wind and clouds; his voice became peals of thunder…. All the mites on his body were touched by the wind [his breath] and evolved into the black-haired people. (Wu yun li-nien chi, cited in Yu shih, PCTP 1.2a)”

– quoted from Chinese Mythology: An Introduction by Anne Birrell

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

### “…my advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it is on your plate; that’s my philosophy.” ~ from The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder ###


1. Linda Ricklefs Baudry - January 23, 2023



ajoyfulpractice - January 23, 2023


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