“…the seasons they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down
we’re captive on the carousel of time
we can’t return we can only look behind
from where we came
and go round and round
in the circle game…” – Joni Mitchell
As a kid, I didn’t do well on amusement or playground rides that went in circles. I recall being held by the arms and swung in a circle by others but can’t imagine why I let them. I am predisposed to nausea and dizziness…even now blood pressure issues, hormonal swings, and a propensity to ear stones keeps me in a nearly constant state of vigilance for dizzy spells. I dread that feeling, the room spins, and the nausea that follows almost more than anything else.
Perhaps it’s that feeling of complete disorientation, vulnerability, and fear that holds the key to my practice, and search for the dharma (the truth about the way things are and will always be in nature and the universe). I know that challenging situations and people are my greatest teachers. I believe they are coming at me so relentlessly in recent years because I have not yet learned what I need to learn about surrendering to the circuitousness of life.
A new friend created the Dharma Wheel above for me…what a gift! I particularly love how the center evokes the warmth and brightness of the sun. The eight spokes remind me to practice the eightfold path. I am really struggling with truthful communication without harm. While I believe my intent is positive, clearly it is not always experienced as such by others…and I am simply too attached to the idea (my ego!) that they will experience me otherwise.
But it seems my real attachment is to the hurt of my past. In a Tricycle teaching by Tsulrim Allione in an adaptation from her book Feeding Your Demons, this former Tibetan Buddhist nun explains that demons are not ghouls waiting to harm us but rather the core of our ego-clinging. I followed her five step instruction of finding my demon in order to feed it what it needed and ultimately integrating it as an ally. I was surprised at how quickly and assuredly my demon provided me with profound insights.
When asked what my demon wanted from me, the answer was to be left alone. Likewise the response to what it needed from me was to be allowed to die. The demon assured me that it would feel free and at peace as a result.
So how has it served me to keep this wounded soul alive for so long? I have been compelled again and again to hold her up as a victim, demanding she be seen and her hurts revenged. The minute anyone disregards or attacks me, I immediately pull out this painful past and parade it over and over again in my mind. No rest for the demon, no rest for me. Completely irrelevant to the external world.
In the exercise, as I envisioned feeding the wretched soul of my demon as much nourishment and nectar as she could take in, she transformed into a tiny, translucent and luminescent being. I took my tiny Thumbelina lovingly into my heart and learned she would always be there to warm and protect my heart, I just needed to breathe mindfully into my heart to access this demon turned ally.
I realize this may sound kooky to most people. Yet it’s a powerful thing to own these attachments we have that cause us and others such suffering. What the mind creates, the mind can transform. Assaulted by nearly constant pain, I’m willing to commit to whatever practice or process carves out a new path of being…knowing the circuitous nature of the universe will likely keep bringing me back to that pain until one day it won’t hurt quite so much.
2 thoughts on “the circle game”
Your writing is incredibly powerful. I understand.
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A wonderful and compelling post that pulls back the covers on the kinds of struggles that so many of us share while providing hope that, with effort, we can overcome them in a positive way. You’ve left me thinking…what could be better. And, I too can’t bear spinning around and nausea from any cause. Thanks for this…and please feel better. ~Dawn