Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

January, 1999


Perhaps it is apt to start the new year with a topic entitled "Beginnings", just as we ended last year with "Silence".

Although it is self evident that new beginnings can only come about when the old has ended, seldom in our lives do we practice this.

Perhaps it is human nature to hold on to what it has already been achieved and acquired, but without letting go of them, no matter how wonderful they are, nothing new can come about. Just as the Zen wisdom says, "if you want to fill your cup, you must first empty it."

Yet there is another dimension to this saying, and that is the implicit notion that in order to fill one's cup, one must first have a cup, and then be aware of the fact that one is in possession of that cup.

Sufi wisdom and poetry often uses the metaphor of "the cup" as the vessel carrying the essence, much like our bodies being the vessels carrying our essence. Yet in the context of beginnings, while one way to start anew is to destroy the vessel, another is to empty it.

In the final analysis, it is neither the cup nor the essence that are of significance in our human lives, since both of these are divinely endowed gifts. What is significant is our awareness of the existence of both the cup and the essence.

To bring this poetic and highly abstract description to the earthly realms and human levels, we can treat anything within or around us through the same metaphor.

Our office is the cup, while the work that we do in it is the essence. Often the clutter of previous work leaves no room for new beginnings; neither physically nor mentally, nor emotionally.

Our houses are cups, while the homes we make within and from them is the essence. Often the accumulation of "stuff" from prior times and previous homes leaves no room for the renewal and regeneration of our homes.

Our world is the cup, and how we treat it is the essence. Often the old habits, institutions, systems and processes leave no room for new beginnings.... and the list goes on.

So what are we to do?

This is where we go to the ending of the previous "things". Nature constantly regenerates and renews itself by getting rid of the old, decomposing it, eliminating it altogether, and using it up in the creation of the new. But nature destroys wisely. It is not "out there" to indiscriminately destroy. It discriminates and destroys only that which needs to be gone.

And this is exactly what we need to do. Discarding, destruction and elimination is not the major issue. The most important issue is discrimination and awareness of what needs to be gone out of our cups to make room for the new. And perhaps this is best done through silent observation and contemplation. Observation of our environment and our selves, and contemplation of our exterior and our within...

Perhaps this is why the nights in winter are so much longer... to give us the chance to silently observe and contemplate, and hopefully discard to make room for the new beginnings.

Shahriar Shahriari
Vancouver, Canada
January 1999

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