I belong to a spiritual community headed by a wonderful teacher, Master Zhi Gang Sha. Within that family
are many gifted and beautiful teachers, one of whom is Master Cecilia Liu, Master teacher of Tao Calligraphy
and much more. She is a terrific story teller, and relates that Chinese people love to tell stories and have many. I hope she will forgive me if I paraphrase (and embellish) this tale that I heard her tell, of the 6 loaves.
There was, back in the day, a devoted older Chinese couple who lived together mostly in harmony for
many years. One day, the wife was called away to visit her daughter in a far province, and would be
gone for several days. To assist her husband in her absence she cooked 6 loaves of bread to leave
for him so he would have food to eat. The wife departed, and the man went to his work of tending the fields
When the man came home he was very hungry, and seeing the 6 loaves of bread, sat down to eat one
of them. It was very good, and finding that he was still hungry, ate the 2nd loaf. He was actually annoyed
to find that he still did not feel full, and so proceeded to the 3rd. And then the 4th. The 5th loaf of bread
also disappeared down the husband's throat. Finally, upon eating the 6th loaf, his hunger was gone.
He shook his head and said to himself, "Well, if I'd known that, I would have eaten the 6th loaf first."
It is a charming story, but there is a great spiritual nugget of truth there. We all want to be enlightened
and pure and free and filled with light and the love of heaven, but that is the 6th loaf. We must eat the other
five, that consist of discipline and study, learning and practice, devotion and patience and faith before
our foundation is solid and beautiful.
Yesterday I received a teaching along these lines, feeling impatient and wanting to jump ahead. I was
gifted with about 15 minutes of what it feels like to truly have an open heart and though it was beautiful
and immediate, it was also very intense and actually painful. I think I have a couple of loaves to go.
Thank you Divine, for the teaching.
There is a gradual quality to the spiritual journey, which is hopefully an upward spiral of releasing, practice, and realization. I am assured that with every chanting, every Calligraphy practice, every blessing given, every prayer, every heartfelt teaching, some darkness falls away, that my energy, frequency and light increase. When I look back at where I started with my teacher, my mind boggles a bit. I was such a tyro, so cocksure of my ultimate spiritual knowledge, I cringe. My personality has mellowed greatly. Spiritual pride and arrogance are a sure stumbling block on the path, and a big one. Little by little, bit by bit, I have come to a place of peacefulness and true power. It's not the power of "See how much I know, see what a great healer and teacher I am!" But the power of knowing who I am, truly a humble channel for the Divine to express through.
We don't knock off those sharp ego corners overnight.
When I started the disciplines of chanting and tracing Calligraphy, I felt happy to achieve 5 or ten minutes a day. "That's enough, I have other things to do." And the western mind-set of action and purpose marches off, full of its accomplishment. It's not enough.
Master Sha teaches, "It took you a lifetime of behaviors to make you sick, is it fair to be upset when one blessing doesn't heal you completely?"
It's actually a do-over, a true life change to master these disciplines. NOW we see what true satisfaction and accomplishment is. I remember vividly the first time I was able to chant the Da Bei Zhou great Compassion Mantra of Guan Yin straight through without a mistake, from memory. I wept. It was one of the happiest, greatest moments of my life. It took me over a year to do it, and now it's one way that I serve.
Patience, tenacity, kindness to oneself, fortitude, and downright bull-headed stubbornness are required to stick with a thing, and sometimes muscle through. "I can do 10 more! I can do it!" Or, be like water. It just flows, wearing away obstacles, accepting everything.
It's the same with Tao Calligraphy, my first efforts were lopsided and unbalanced, I confess to a fairly long period of frustration trying to get it right. The teaching is; it was I that was lopsided and unbalanced, it was the gradual and painstaking correction and re-correction, comparing to the proper way of writing, practice for hours, that brought me into the alignment that I am now. There again, it has been actual years of practice that have allowed me to memorize the 10 great qualities Calligraphies and the sense of quiet joy and accomplishment could have come from nothing else. This is not to say that I'm all the way there yet! There is much to do, and far to go. And yet, nothing to do, and nowhere to go. From these practices also come the sense of sitting at the center, quiet and peaceful.
Enjoy every loaf, every buttery slice, every crumb. It's all good. It's all delicious.