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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Cute mouse lemurs of Durham. Their nicknames are Bluebell, Blackberry, Pipkin and Dogbane. The Gray mouse lemur is the smallest of all the lemurs

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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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Meeting a Strange Face

It had been a long day checking around the wall of Role-Domania. The Pokemon General walked and walked, but for some reason… the forest was looking different. Peculiar. It didn’t feel right.

BlackBerry narrowed her eyes. She couldn’t have gotten lost..! She walked this way weekly! Every week for who KNOWS how long…! Pausing a moment, the Raichu got down on all four paws and sniffed the ground. Primitive as it was to do such a thing, she needed to locate her scent track. 

Much to her amazement… the ground smelled… almost new. Fresh dirt and grass. There was no familiar scent around the orange mouse at all. Blackberry even turned around and backtracked a few paces… but still there was no familiar scent.

Feeling a little bit of panic settling in, her ears stood up at a sound. It sounded like a pair of human feet stepping on leaves. Immediately the electric Pokemon dashed over quietly to see whom was around. Hiding in the bushes, BlackBerry saw a purple haired human dressed in black and white? Light grey? It was hard to tell which it was exactly. 

The Pokemon watched him walk… examining him from this distance. Maybe HE was the reason why things didn’t smell correctly… maybe it was a gas bomb or something that erased her scent tracks… and he was going to corner her! Blackberry began to snarl from her side of the bushes, warning him that she was there and hiding.