As we speed through the green mountainous landscape at 300km/hr I gaze far out into the distance…reflecting on China, on its people, on its rich history of spiritual teachers and wise ones who understood life in its intricacies…reflecting on China as we see it today, heavily populated, with high-rises sprinkled through even seemingly rural areas, and a recent history of suppressed freedom and murdered wisdom.
And then we go through a tunnel, and I see only myself in the window. Turn inwards. How is my perception of the outside world reflecting me, reflected in me?
Where am I as peaceful as a meditating buddha, where am I as numb as an empty skyscraper?
What parts of me are as free as a summer cloud, what parts are set in concrete with steel foundations?
And again we come into the open. The gaze extends far to the horizon, seeking the most beautiful angle, the richest greenery, the most unusual sight. And into the tunnel, seeking the vistas of my inner beauty, my kinks and quirks. And so on it alternates.
And even when we are not on the train, this is how it goes. Our pervading discomfort with China beckons us to introspect, to question life and ourselves in it.
I realize that I have a deep dislike of big cities. They bother me. Having come from a tiny town of 200 people and experiencing urbanization as it was happening, I know the process. I feel for the country and people left behind. I feel for the land which is increasingly inhabited, overburdened, cleared and covered with concrete.
So, finally, taking note of this ever increasing dis-ease that assails me in cities the world over, realizing and observing this source of unrest in me, opening to it with compassion and acceptance, I formulate a prayer for the cities.
Just as I can walk through nature and sing out to the trees, the rocks and the air. Just as I can walk through temples and chant mantras to the buddha and bodhisattvas. So also I can walk through a city and call on whatever is good there. It’s not easy. I don’t feel a ready song on my lips praising concrete or steel in their essence. I have to really bring it inside of me. Get real. See these cities as what they are for me. Without them would I even have an airport to land in? So, gradually, it comes…
A Prayer for the Cities
Gratitude for the concrete and stones on which I walk and drive,
for the steel which provides a roof over my head and a capsule to travel in,
for the innumerable people who think about my needs and desires
and set about to provide them in every creative way,
for the graffiti artists who bring a smile to my lips
for street performers,
cooks, cleaners, constructors,
homeless people who remind me that I can live with nothing,
for people who smile, whistle, sing and dance,
for whoever in a small way is trying to clean the air and the water, to plant a tree,
to put a little bit of colour here or beauty there.
Blessings to the people born into the city,
may they dream beyond the highest skyscraper,
and know the wisdom of the raw, natural, un-sculpted earth.
To the people who move to the city,
may they find ease, community, rest and inspiration.
To those who move in and out of the city,
may they bring freshness and take goodness.
I give thanks to the big earth which supports
these hives of humanity,
to the trees on the sidewalk,
the weeds in the cracks of pavement,
the air in the parks,
the sun’s light streaming between buildings,
the moon dwarfed by city lights,
the stars unseen.
To the big earth which is ever present in these cities,
only removed from its place of origin,
and molded to suit the demand of the day,
much like the people here.
Reminding us that we all are one.
From the earth we come.
To the earth we return.
In between may we enjoy these thick, sticky
melting pots of humanity as best we can.
If it’s resonating with you…please add your prayers in the comments section below. Aho!
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