January 30, 2006

Little Blue Bowl

Sometimes on the spiritual journey we come face to face with painful realities of our human experience. For me, one reality that rises with some frequency is that my human heart holds onto sadness. My heart remembers deep sorrows – even when I don’t want to remember. These sorrows feel so heavy at times; out of the blue sadness will come over me and cover me with the earnestness of dark clouds. Some days it casts secret shadows within, and, at times, lends itself over to what feels to be an unrelenting self-loathing. Yes – I have hated myself for feeling so much sadness, for the shame that I couldn't "get over it," and for ‘losing it’ at times and places where culture restricts. For a long time, this feeling of self-loathing over my own sorrow was confusing to me. Aki suggested to me that we tend to put our difficult feelings, memories or intrusive thoughts into a closet, and an energy field seems to form around it. “It’s better,” he said, “to have our sorrow out where we can know it, honor it, and use it.”

This little teaching touched me, gently at first, and then in more potent ways. I had never thought of honoring my sorrow. I had never thought of loosening my grip from it, of placing it on the shelf, so to speak, and looking at it from a little distance. My sorrow stemmed from a great personal loss. When I tried holding this sorrow with honor rather than with shame, slowly it began to take on the character of a great gift. Aki’s words rang true, “Held with honor, sorrow, angst, and self-loathing have their places.” “Wounds inflict blessings,” he told me, “When we move toward our wounds, we will see, deep within them, what is needed. In them we find compassion.”

With heavy hearts,
broken hearts
we fall into life day after dry day.
What can contain the heaviness
that colors a life with deep violets,
with the indigo of hidden tears?

A friend made me some little blue ceramic bowls. I have one on my desk and I have come to regard this bowl as a place to hold my sorrow. With cupped hands, I gently, and with honor, place some sorrow there from time to time. Sometimes I imagine that this little bowl can contain all the sorrows of the world within it. It is like a magic bowl. A little, magic, blue bowl to hold all the blues of the world.

Without those blues
there could be no gold and no crimson.
There would be no emerald lakes
and turquoise rivers, no mountains
of umber and sienna.

Without those blues
There would be no real joy
of any depth
no pure joy
without those blues.

I offered a little bowl to Aki as a place to hold his sorrows. He thanked me, and placed it on his desk. Later he said, "What I did not realize was the capacity of this little, blue bowl. I started small, placing a little pain there in the bowl. And it held it. And I was impressed by anything that could silently hold pain and not complain. You know what I'm talking about here? Can you feel the release just in that? In the meager knowing that there was something that could hold what it shouldn't be able to hold, yet it holds it? It holds the war, the aggression, the deaths of fathers and sons, on both sides. Little by little, everything went into that bowl. Its capacity for holding - for warmth and love, for acceptance, for forgiveness and generosity - was infinite."

Aki said, “The bowl provides a symbolic space where all this carnage can be held, while one moves into the bright sunlight, out into the deep water of the river; playful again, a child again, rediscovering an abundance of warmth and love, the heart's capacity for renewal, the spirits ability to resurrect; finding heaven and earth together, sad/joyful hearts willing to shed into innocence; unclogging the wellspring of genuineness..."

I, too, am amazed at all it can hold; a little blue bowl containing so many tears and angst, yet it never fills. Amazingly, it holds not only the tears and sadness we offer it; it also holds compassion, warmth, love, acceptance, forgiveness and generosity. Wow! Look at those jewels! Jewels that shimmer light right into our darkest shadows. Who could have known the power of a little blue bowl?

Now sorrow has a place.
It only needed a place.
Shadow only asks
for a place to be.

How can I have light
without darkness?
Now, there is a place
for darkness,
and I live in light.
I feel, in gratefulness,
I feel.

Thank you, dear Aki.


Jon said...

May you have less and less to put there, Meredith!

Twyla said...

What a beautiful post. I've come back to read it several times now. As I often do with your writing.

My life long struggles with depression was greatly improved when I also came to this place of honoring suffering. Not hiding from pain, not sniffing the tears back inside. This can be a little tricky when there is a tendency toward darkness, but not impossible.

Thank you for the beauty you share here.

isaiah said...


Your experience and writing should be enjoyed by many more than visit this deceivingly simple, yet enlightening space you have created here.


cdog said...

I agree with Namaste. This is an incredible peace and should be published. I have suspected what you wrote, in my own life, but never had it explained so clearly. I realized I am changed from my sorrow, more compassionate, kinder, and there is good reason to honor it.

Meredith said...

Thank you dear friends for your encouragement. Another treasured gift of the little blue bowl.