When I pack my suitcase and board a one way flight to Santa Fe, New Mexico where the kindly Upaya Zen Center has agreed to provide instruction and let me sit with them for the unknown future I will have nothing but coats, sweater, shirts and sweat pants. There is nothing left but these things.
I will not be carrying my muse chickens. They have created a new coop no longer in my home which is also now belongs to someone else. They have moved to the happy yard of my daughter and grand daughter where they are deeply loved. Still, though I do not see them often, I speak to them in my heart. I profess my love and admiration and often the wordless affection of seeing them in my mind warms me. I know my Rosey darling, the big red hen who once sat in my lap and lay like a deconstructed puzzle in front of me while I pet her and sung to her remembers me. I visited recently and she had no time for me until I began to sing my song to her, she turned quickly and looked me directly in the eye. I swooped her in my arms and kept singing as her body relaxed and we hugged each other. Having a friend who is a bird means communicating in song and once sung can never be forgotten. Loving a bird is the ultimate metaphor for detachment. I love with absolute abandon regardless of the outcome. I love without asking for anything back. Birds being loyal and kind, cheerful and brave love this same way so they understand it. If you try to love a bird by keeping her too close, holding her too tightly she will not understand this love. She will suffer.
In mystical terms chickens are the teachers of the bird world. They are also my spirit animal intended to guide me. I know this is entirely true. Most of the best things I’ve learned recently came from my teacher birds who showed up unexpectedly on a spring day and left as the fall chill took hold. They are a clear symbol of love, life, impermanence and the beauty of that. All that we hold is now, and all that we have is what we carry in that moment. Every chicken is born knowing this and she will teach you if you let her.
So when I board that plane to the vast unknown Rosey will be walking about in her busy cheer in my soul. Also there will be all the love I’ve gathered like shells on a beach from every person, place and creature who has crossed past me or bumped into me. It is a matter of fact and awe that loving energy surrounds my foot steps and wraps itself around me at every turn. Before the plan was set to sit under a star filled New Mexico sky my brother wrote to me saying I should come back to my child hood home where I am understood and loved. I smiled. I am loved and understood so many places. This is the truth of it, how ever much love you are willing to give is what will be returned to you. However vulnerable you are willing to be is equal to the gentle power you will have in your life. The Tao says it well when it reminds us to be like water, gently flowing, never demanding, always giving and never running dry. This is the way of your spirit and mine.
If you want to have everything-give away all you have. If you want to be loved, love first. If you want to know yourself, first sit, then let go of you..give yourself entirely away. All that stands in your way and mine is fear. Say hello to the fear, speak to it often, ask it to sit with you until it has become an old friend and when it arises you will say; “Hello friend. What have you come to tell me?” When your fear has cried and yelled through you it will fall asleep and you will move forward on bare feet with nothing but love to guide you.
Right now I am told my chicken teachers have taken to huddling together against the winter chill and singing as the early sun sets to a night sky. They are no doubt dreaming as they do and filling the moonlight in love and cheer. I too will be doing the same at the Zen Center and we will wrap each other in a love large enough to cover all of the sky and its watchful moon. For love when given can never really end–it as long as your spirit which lasts forever.