Meditatio 5: To All the Old Souls
In the course of writing my book, A Bloody Song: How Anime and Literature Collide, I came across a great many texts about Zen and Buddhist culture. One idea that I found particularly fascinating is the idea that Time itself is in fact the raw material of Zen art. It is so far removed from our Western concepts of art and spirituality, that it took me a while to fully understand what that meant.
One of the biggest losses in our modern-day cultures is surely the loss of our sense of the Past. Our deep, organic connection to the Past is rarely mentioned or even thought about in the West. It’s as if our sense of belonging to Time itself were broken, irrelevant… This loss lies at the root of a great spiritual thirst.
I certainly feel that something is missing from most conversations I hear about spirituality today. You hear about ‘living in the moment’, ‘embracing the present’, ‘feeling the oneness of the universe.’ But you never hear about the Past. About the living connection we feel to our ancestors’ stories and to our own personal heritage. Yet our body and mind, our biology and psychological make-up, all of these are the Past, they are the products of a very, very long history.
They say that ‘you can’t go home again.’ Yet our ‘Home’ is also the Past, and it lives within us. It breathes, it has a soul. To revisit and nurture the Past is to learn how to embrace and explore how it feeds into and continues to shape our world. It is our life’s work to cast a glance back into the depths of our ancestors’ richly woven stories and of our own authentic selves…
The reconnection to the Past I wish to foster is, at bottom, an invitation to experience the gentle, healing power of contemplative practice. What if we dared to renew and rewild our spirits by exploring the landscape of the Past on its own terms? What if this meditative encounter fully revealed to us the landscape of our own dreams?
I believe that cultivating a sense of the Past and of our ancestor stories is opening up a door onto a secret garden. It is discovering that our souls have all been ‘pre-loved’, that we didn’t come from nothing. It is discovering a way forward, a healing process, a newly and more authentically spiritual path. It is choosing to lean into the ‘wind’ and ‘flow’, into the river of Time.
Some of you will chose to honour the Past by creating a beautifully decorated personal altar dedicated to ancestors and elders. Some of you will chose to journal about it in a pretty notebook. Others will honour the Past by meditatively walking, lingering through nature. All of these practices are worthy of our ‘Home’, our Heritage, our life stories. All of them invite us to look into the mirror of the Past and of our ‘old souls.’ This is the deeply healing and spiritual gift we owe our present and future selves.
To learn more about this spiritual journey, please tune into my podcast A Thread of History: Teahouse Poems to Nurture the Past and Rewild the Spirit!