blackberries and the mouse

Awakened Ordinariness

‘The last quality of spiritual maturity is that of ordinariness. In some traditions this is called post-enlightenment practice, the ordinariness that arises after the special spiritual states and side effects have faded away. Nisargadatta, the great master of the nondual, was asked how his own consciousness differed from the seekers around him. He smiled and stated that he had stopped identifying with the seeker. Yes, he would sit and wait for his breakfast, wait for his lunch, hungry and perhaps impatient like others, but underneath and all around was an ocean of peace and understanding. He was not caught up in or identified with any of the changing conditions of his life, and so, unlike those around him, whatever happened. Nisargadatta was at rest.

Ordinariness is a simple presence in this moment that allows the mystery of life to show itself. When Thoreau warns is to “beware of any activity that requires the purchase of new clothes,” he reminds us that simplicity is the way we open to everyday wonder. While we can honor the capacity of consciousness to create an infinite variety of forms, ordinariness is interested in what is here and now. This is the ordinary mystery of breathing or walking, the mystery of trees on our street or of loving someone near to us. It is not based on attaining mystical states of extraordinary power. It does not seek to become something special, but is emptying, listening.

Walt Whitman praises this ordinariness in his poetry:

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than they journey-work of the stars…

And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven…

And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

The ordinariness of spiritual life comes from a heart that has learned trust, from a gratitude for the gift of human life. When we are just ourselves, without pretense or artifice, we are at rest in the universe. In this ordinariness there is no higher or lower, nothing to fix, nothing to desire, simply an opening in love and understanding to the joys and suffering of the world. This ordinary love and understanding brings an ease and peace of heart to every situation. It is the discovery that our salvation lies in the ordinary. Like the water of the Tao, which finds its way between the stones or wears them away a little at a time and gradually lowers itself to return to the ocean, this ordinariness brings us to rest.

There is a great power in ordinariness, a great strength in spiritual maturity. There comes the power to heal ourselves naturally, and just as naturally our sanity and compassion extends to the world around us.’

- Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life.

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Various works by Maike Plenzke

Maike Plenzke is a Freelance Illustrator from Berlin who moved to Hamburg to pursue Illustration. She is currently living and working in Leipzig, Germany.

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