Sunday, April 22, 2007

that's a LIE!!

Antelope Canyon
photo by Mary
The father of a dear friend of mine was a liar. I don't mean someone who told a fib now and then, his life was built on a foundation of untruth. He courted her mother with a lie - sending photographs of himself in front of a house he claimed to be his, when it was not; in the years of my friend's childhood, there was uncertainty around his work, his salary, whether the mortgage was paid. No-one seemed to be able to size up the substance of his words. One time, after he had separated from his wife, and was living alone, he said he was going to Scotland for the weekend, and on his return regaled tales of the journey. It later transpired he had spent the entire weekend in his apartment, the curtains closed.
I met him once, when I travelled with my friend - actually, my partner, so I suppose he was my father-in-law, if the law ever recognised such relationships - to the land on another continent where he lived. He had divorced my friend's mother by then, had recently re-married, and we travelled across another border to the village of his forbears. The highlight was a visit to a church where his father, purportedly an artist, had painted a magnificent mural - the details of this untruth are a lost to me now - i only know, when we entered the church, the story dissipated into something far less than he had described. There was no mural, simply a statue his father had somehow worked on.
It was at his funeral that the shakiness of his words became most apparent; the pastor, basing his speech on the knowledge of the second wife, described my friend's father's life. She and her mother looked at each other bemused. Although this was undoubtedly what he had told his wife, it was not true. Through his living and past his death, he fabricated who he was.
I am sure there is a term - pathological?- for people who create a world, a life they do not live in, but I had never been knowingly connected with someone who had this habit. It intrigued me that someone would do this, to continuously undermine every relationship or potential by removing the foundation of truth. I would say my friend loved her father, yet always there was this tension of what could be believed, what not, creating a fragility.
We all have lied, probably often. I know I have, some large, some small, sometimes without real intention. We lie to ease tension, to hedge the truth, because its easier. We think if we tell a lie and don't get caught, then somehow no damage was done. We build little nests made with hollow, twisted sticks, and think that we are safe. We never are.
One of the vows of ordination is never to lie; actually, this vow can be taken by lay people as well, but the ordination vow is of greater consequence, because of the commitment to your spiritual path inherent in the decision to take robes.
It is an exposed landscape, stripped of the comforts of simple lies. One stands raw and naked, without the option of shifting a word or two, an idea or two, to make the world softer, more palatable. Having taken that vow (and i am sure I have not always honored it) i could see the itsy, bitsy, not-so-terrible lies that I took for granted. Not really lies, we would probably say, but not entirely the truth, either. Sort of straddling the truth, which means not embracing it fully.
The vow to not lie is not about becoming a goody two shoes, or taking a holier than thou posture. Its about letting fall to the ground the habits we cloak ourselves in, which prevent us from knowing the truth of ourselves. In fact, the source of its potency is not only the lies we tell others, it is the lies we tell ourselves in order to try and stay comfortable in a world which ultimately isn't. Self-honesty is the key and the magnifying glass, it is the method by which we look in our hearts and its reflection, our lives, and squirm. It allows us to decipher our presence in the world, by acknowledging our habits - anger, jealousy, judgement and so on. Yet it's not about then hating or blaming or judging ourselves for these habits, it's just seeing they are there, and knowing we can change them. Exposed by self-honesty, the foundation of an opening heart shores up, because instead of the quicksand of dishonesty, there is the infallibility of truth.
It's not easy to be self-honest, it is probably one of the hardest qualities to sincerely and honestly embrace. People do it of course, especially those who may have lived with addictions and pulled their heads up one final time, to say - no more. That is a painful nakedness, physically, emotionally, but the rawness of the wound, its depth, can create a place for looking within and yearning for the possibility of a better life. Self-honesty is fundamental to this.
But self-honesty can help and heal us all, because we all have habits we hide in, or behind, that may not be of benefit to ourselves or others. Perhaps they do active harm, perhaps not apparently so; yet if there is the seed of untruth or deception, or a habit with a poisonous barb, however subtle, the results will always be flawed.
Stripping away the layers of deception, or not-quite-the-truth or bits of ourselves we would rather not have, strips back the illusion of who we seem to be. We may not project ourselves in the extreme manner of my friend's father, yet still our habits create a persona that we cling to, hide in, dance with over and over again. Take away some of the props, and the refreshing wind of clarity and truth will begin to shape our lives. We will find the truth is much more than we imagined, even with our most impressive lie.
This post was inspired by Leigh, who is courageously dealing with the habit of lies. When I first went to her blog, and saw her photo, it was like looking in a plate glass window, a reflection of the past- not perhaps just of myself, but of women whose lives I have shared, in one guise or another. There was a sense of familiarity, which bridged time and space. I thought of the inherent interconnectedness of us all, that the habits we thinks are so unique - our personalities, our lives - never really are. The patterns, like in a kaleidoscope, may shift and change, but the little coloured beads from which those patterns are derived are the same in us all.
The Buddha teaches that there is no difference between you and I, there is no place I end and you begin. We cannot comprehend this - I cannot. Yet we know, somehow, that we are linked in ways we cannot describe nor explain. The power of thought, of our intention rises like an invisible wave to shape the contours of the future. This potential is what we all share, and its essence is truth. It is our habits that deceive us, which trick us into believing the world and the words which we hide in. By letting the habits of harm and deception slide to the earth like a shredded cloth that cannot protect us, we will begin to know the majesty, grace and brilliant luminous truth of our hearts.


Anonymous said...

Dear Kunzang,
It is always a surprise to come to your blog and see a photo of mine introducing the post. A week ago today before entering Antelope Canyon, our Navajo guide said that it is a very spiritual place - and it is - in spite of the fact that dozens of others are making their way through. We were fortunate that our small group of eight somehow kept a little distance between us and other groups. As I look at the photo once again, I can't help but notice that the walls of the canyon seem to touch and be interwined but that is not the case. Nowhere in the slot canyon do the walls touch.
I think perhaps this is indicative of the relaionships formed with all of us who first met and worked together with the rescued Katrina animals, the Tara's Babies, at Dakini Valley. Circumstances have prevented us from being together often as we were initially, but we are still intertwined in our friendships even though we are not able to touch or exchange a warm hug. I will think of this every time I look at one of the pictures in Antelope Canyon. Your postings always contribute much to my day and I look forward to reading the next one.
Love, Mary

Anonymous said...

It hasn't been long since I have been brought to tears but it has been a while since they meant so very much to me. I would like to have a better connection with you. I think that we could possibly have important things to learn from each other. Feel free to contact me in any respect.

You have no idea how amazing it feel to recieve some kind of positive acknowledgement. I have had precious little of it for quite some time now. Thank you so very very much.

EdaMommy said...

Thank you for a deeply moving and relevant post. I will continue to think on the things you've said - self-honesty is a life-long theme for me....

Be well,

kunzang said...

Mary - yes, thank you for being my unofficial blog photographer!! I appreciate the wonderful shots you capture. Your description of the interconnections between us all, and through the rescue of Tara's Babies, is touching - they certainly are precious, and go beyond just seeing each other.