On the Value of Being a Crack-Pot

On the Value of Being a Crack-Pot
Dear Wonder Child Blog Readers,
I was sent this story yesterday from a friend in India.  
I like it a lot and so I am sharing it with you.  
Peace and Light, Peace and Light.
Joseph 
A water-bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pot full of water in his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water-bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water-bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.” Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. Don’t be afraid of your flaws. Acknowledge them and go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness we can find strength .


Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog



Finding Your Center: A Pedagogical Story For Anxious Children of All Ages

Finding Your Center

A Pedagogical Story for Anxious Children

of All Ages


As many of
you know I am back in the Waldorf School teaching first grade.  It is such a gift to be able to freely teach
the whole child.  One of the ways this is
done is through stories.  Since the first
day of school I have been telling the children a running story that weaves
around the Great Secret of Beauty.  In
the story a boy and a girl, a grandfather, an angel, a dragon, and various other
characters appear and have many adventures and talks together. The subjects and
themes of the story are culled from where I think the emotional states of the
children are.  Since there are a few students
who are a little nervous or anxious for one reason or another, this part of the
story came out.  It is for all children,
big and small who sometimes feel afraid and do things they wish they didn’t.

One day the
boy was sitting in the grass in his backyard. 
He had been thinking about what the dragon had said to him the day
before.  For sometimes when it seems a
child is not listening, it is well to remember that it only seems that
way.  Children are listening, and when
they are ready they will reflect on what you have said.  And on this particular morning, the boy was
thinking about what his friend the dragon had told him the day before.

“I used to
hit people with my tail,” said the dragon, “In fact, I used to eat people. I
don’t know why I did these things.  I
guess I was actually nervous and afraid and my fears came out like that.  And besides, people are yummy.”

“But how did
you learn to not hit and eat people?” asked the boy.

“Time,” said
the dragon, “it took time and practice.”

“Will I ever
change?” asked the boy, “I don’t want to hit my friends and say mean
things.  I just want to have fun and
sometimes I worry I will never change.”

And as he
was remembering the dragon’s answer he heard another voice, a tiny, slow voice.  One that came as if it measured every word it
said.

“You are
changing,” said the voice, “and your friend was right, it takes time.”

“How did you
know what I was thinking?” the boy asked the keeper of the voice he could not
yet see.

“You were
thinking out loud,” said the voice.

And then the
boy’s ears caught the direction of the sound and when he followed that direction
with his eyes, he found the source of that slow, measured voice.  It was coming from a snail sliding slowly
towards him carrying his great, spiraling house upon his back.

“Oh, hello
snail.”

“Good
morning,” said the snail stopping to rest on the leaf of an autumn colored mum.

“So you
think I can change?” asked the boy, “You really think I will stop hitting other
children?  I really don’t want to hurt
anyone.  It’s just that sometimes I get so
mad, especially when I’m feeling scared, and then before I realize what’s
happened, I’ve hurt someone.”

“Can change?”
said the snail, “You are changing.  Some
changes are quick, like a shooting star flashing across the night sky; other
changes are slow, like winter melting into spring.  You need to practice of course, find other
ways to move through your fears and worries. 
You need to find your center. But you are changing, rest assured.”

“My center?  What does that mean?”

“It’s how I
built this house I carry with me.  And I
built it without any hands.”

“I’m afraid
I don’t understand,” said the boy, “sometimes I feel like I don’t understand
anything.”

“Well,” said
the snail, “walk the path of my house with me. 
I’ll lead you around the lawn.  As
we walk the shape of my spiraling shell, think of a place you like to go when
you are feeling afraid.  Think of a thing
you like to do that helps you feel calm, peaceful, and happy.  And as we walk this spiraling walk you will
discover your center.”

And so the
snail slipped slowly to the ground and began sliding through the grass a great
spiral, a labyrinth that slowly unfurled inwards towards a still, focused center.  The boy walked behind the snail, careful not
to go ahead or step on the snail, for his steps were much bigger than the
sliding trail of the talking snail.  As
they moved together, the boy thought about times he was mad or afraid, nervous
or scared and he suddenly remembered that when he felt those ways he often
found himself drawing.  In fact, as he
neared the center of the spiral he knew—drawing was his centering place. And as
he stood in the center of the spiral, the spiral drawn by the snail, he felt
happy and relieved to know he had a place to go when he felt uncomfortable
feelings.

“So you see,”
said the snail, with a voice as gradual as the dawn, “we all have a
center.  We all have something we can do,
or a place we can go where we can pause, rest, and calm ourselves down.  And when we go to that place, or do that
thing, over and over, over time and over years, we build ourselves a house, a
house we can carry within, well, in my case on my back, but the point is, we
build ourselves a house of habits—healthy, helpful habits.  And these become a safe place to go.”

“I
understand,” said the boy, “is it OK if I have more than one centering place?”

“Of
course!  You humans are like that.  They have many mansions within themselves
that they can explore when they need to.”

“Oh good,”
said the boy, “because mostly I draw when I’m feeling nervous, but other times
I go for walks, ride my bike, talk with grandfather, and sometimes, and you’re
the first person I’ve ever told this: sometimes I even sing and dance.”

“Wonderful!”
said the snail, “Thank you for telling me. 
Those are all perfect places to go and things to do to find your center.  And the more you go to those places, and the
more you do the things you love, you will find yourself hitting your friends
less and less.  You will find yourself
saying fewer and fewer naughty things. 
In fact you will see that your friends have their own centering places
and things they love and you’ll know then that they too have hearts that
sometimes feel afraid and nervous just like you do, and then you will find
yourself just being nice because you are really so much alike.  And oh, what fun you will have sharing your
centers, inviting your friends to walk with you, draw with you, and sing with
you.”

“That does
sound fun,” said the boy.

“Well,” said
the snail, “I must be off, I have to get into town soon and meet the man who
owns the bicycle store. I am going to buy a bike today!  Toodle-Loo!”

“Wait,” said
the boy, “I have one more question please.”

“Ask away.”

“Well,
sometimes I forget my centering places. 
What should I do then?”

“Breathe,”
said the snail, “Breathe deeply from your belly, still yourself like a mountain,
and that will help center you.”

“Thank you,”
said the boy.

“You’re
welcome,” said the snail, “and another thing you can do to help yourself find
your centering place is to talk with someone you trust.  Sometimes we all need help finding our centering
places.”

And with
that the snail raced towards town, which if you were looking at the snail you would
never have guessed he was racing.  You
would have just thought: “There goes the slowest friend I know.  Look at him go carrying his house upon his back,
carrying his centering place that he built without any hands; that he built
with the slow, patient practice of centering himself.  There he goes to go buy a bike.  A bike? 
How is he going to ride a bike?”

And once the
story was over, without me ever asking: “Do you have a centering place or
something you do that helps you feel better when you’re feeling afraid?”, the
children, one by one, shared their centering places.

“I go to a
still, quiet place.”

“I draw.”

“I go for
walks.”

“I ride my
bike.”

“I
skateboard.”

“I sleep.”

“I read.”

“I pet my cat.”

And while I
did not ask them, I will ask you.  

“Where
is your centering place?  

What do you do
when you’re feeling anxious and afraid?”

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


The Fable of the Two Gardeners

The Fable of
the Two Gardeners

By Joseph
Anthony

Inspired by
Emmet Fox

Once upon a
time there was a wise gardener planting flower bulbs in his garden.  As he worked, he sang; as he sang, each bulb
seemed to glow in his hands as he nestled it into the cool, moist earth.  Every day he planted bulbs, for he desired a
garden of flowers that would spread for miles. 
Some days his back ached from all the bending and digging.  Some days he even complained about his aches
and pains. Mostly however, he planted bulbs and sang, loving the blossoms that
had already bloomed and looking ahead in child-like expectation to the ones that
would sprout in the future—expectation—not impatience.  For he would plant the bulbs and move on,
knowing, trusting that the earth, the sun, the rain, and the One had a plan for
each and every bulb.  The bulbs would
break through in their own sweet, perfect time-most often unexpectedly, most
often when he had forgotten planting them; most often when others were there to
notice and had to point them out to him and he would laugh with surprise.   People
came from far and wide to stroll through his garden.  It was indeed a beautiful site—paradise.  And the butterflies and the bees?  For them it was heaven.  To the toads and the praying mantis, the
hummingbirds, and the sun and the moon, it was also a place to call home.  Yes the sun and the moon loved spending time
in his flower garden.  They loved shining
down upon it, gazing at the riot of colors and infinite variety of the shapes
of the blooms.  The stars would look down
upon his flowers by the light of the moon, and love them so much they would
weep tears of joy that could be found shimmering on the petals and leaves every
morning.  And the wise gardener would
work every day, his every movement a dance, and he loved wondering at the
wonder of it all, that the Creator could devise such a plan that took homely,
roughly honed bundles of hard, dryness and transform them into graceful,
slender, exquisitely gorgeous flowers that opened their fragrant faces and
hands to the sun—faces and hands that dripped with beauty and ambrosia.  He was most grateful however, for the blubs
themselves.  He knew they were the key to
his lavish and abundant garden.  He
collected bulbs wherever he went.  Everyone
he met he would ask them if they had any bulbs they would like to share—rich people,
poor people, smart people, mean people, it did not matter.  If they had bulbs (which everyone did) he
wanted to check them out.  Of course
sometimes someone would offer him a bulb that he didn’t want, and sometimes he’d
take it only to later toss it on the roadside on his way home; other times he
would politely say, “No thank you,” tip his hat, and be on his way.  Mostly he collected all that were offered,
for you never knew exactly what sort of flower a bulb might produce, especially
if the giver didn’t know what it was or where he had acquired it.  The wise gardener loved these mystery bulbs
the best, where each blossom was a wonderful surprise.  He collected large flower bulbs and tiny
ones, old ones and new.  And with each
bulb he gathered and planted, he whispered a prayer of thanks.  The prayer would weave its way through his
song, mingle with the sweat from his brow, and travel down right through his
dirty, loving hands into the earth, and the earth would sing it back in the
form of the blossoms.

Next door
there lived another gardener.  He did not
like waiting for the blubs to grow, so he would steal fully grown flowers from
his neighbor, enjoy their beauty for a few moments, praise them, wonder at
them, and then plant them—blossom, leaves, and stem—right in the ground.  He would then watch and wait for a bulb to
sprout up, for he often heard his wise neighbor saying that the bulbs were the
secret to his successful garden.  Bulbs
never sprouted however.  And after a while
he would walk away shaking his head, blaming his neighbor, cursing the sun and
the flowers themselves, hating the never-appearing bulbs, and wondering why his
garden never bloomed like his wise neighbor’s. 

The wise
neighbor would watch the impatient gardener, in fact he knew he was stealing his
flowers, but he never really thought they were his own property to begin with,
so he didn’t mind.  When the impatient
gardener wasn’t looking (which was often) the wise gardener would creep in and
plant a few bulbs here and there, and then quietly sneak away.  When they finally bloomed, the impatient
gardener (if he noticed at all) would stand there with his hands on his hips,
scratching his head at the site of freshly blooming flowers in his garden.  He never figured out where they were coming
from.  As he stood there perplexed he
could hear his neighbor singing through the labyrinth of flowers he had created,
and he would spit on the ground and go sulk in his dark and gloomy house.

One day the
impatient gardener had enough.  Why wasn’t
his garden blooming like his neighbor’s? 
He stomped over to speak with the wise gardener but when he got there he
couldn’t find him anywhere.  Only the
bright morning sun, the bees and a few butterflies were there dancing among the
flowers.

“Have you
seen the wise gardener?” he asked a bumblebee hovering nearby.

“He’s gone,”
buzzed the bee.

“Gone?” the
impatient gardener said in surprise.

“He found a
piece of weed-infested land a few towns over and he felt called to begin a new flower
garden there.”

“But what
will happen to this garden?”

“It will
last for generations, for it is filled with perennials and countless bulbs yet
to sprout.  Of course,” continued the bee
whirring around to face the impatient gardener, “It could use tending every now
and then, and it could use some new bulbs, sweat, and songs.”

“Well don’t
look at me,” the impatient gardener huffed.

“Why not
look at you?” came a sudden chorus of a thousand voices—butterflies, bees,
toads, the praying mantis, birds, and the flowers themselves all joined in, “Why
not look at you?  You’ve always wanted a
garden like this.”

The
impatient gardener hung his head in shame. “It’s not mine,” he whispered, “I
never did anything to help it grow.  In
fact, I stole from it.  I do not deserve
such grace.”

“Child,”
said the Queen Bee just arriving in their midst, “when the wise gardener
planted this garden the land and flowers, the bulbs, and the sun and rain—none of
it belonged to him.  Grace isn’t
something to be deserved, it is simply to be accepted, in the same way you
accept the light from the sun.  The only
difference between you two is that he was willing to work and wait, while you
were not.  And yet, in your own way you
were waiting working, you had secret bulbs planted in your heart—everyone does–that
ached for a new way, that longed to see the light of day and to be shared, and
here you are—you came here asking for help.”

“So?” said the
impatient gardener not yet understanding.

“So?” said
the Queen Bee, “the bulbs in your heart have bloomed.  You are ready to grow your own garden, to
share your own kind of beauty.”

“But that’s just
it,” he said, “this isn’t my garden.”

“Once you
start working it, planting and weeding, it will become yours, and of course, it
isn’t really yours, it belongs to everyone, and most especially to the One.  You will be its caretaker.”

The
impatient gardener stood there, tears forming in his eyes. He stretched out his
hands as if to show how empty they were. 
And as he stood there, butterflies landed on his arms and shoulders,
birds fluttered around him, wiping his tears with their wings, the flowers
began swaying and dancing, the bees formed a ring of thrumming, buzzing life
around him, toads peeped little peeps of encouragement, and the sun looked down
and smiled. And stood in the center of it all, and wept.

And when
finally he could speak, he asked, “what should I do?”

“Get to work,”
hummed the Queen kindly, “and start singing.”

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Feeling Your Feelings: A Meditation on Being


Some days
the sadness comes, whispering into the fragrance of the day, dyeing it just enough with
blue so that your heart catches, and tears rise. 
Happiness can sneak up on you too. 
Some days you wake up, it might be in the middle of a dark winter, but
you find yourself inexplicably happy. 

Memories are
attached to cycles in the seasons and the weather.  Some days the autumn wind carries a memory
scented with sorrow that arrives when the air is cool, brisk, and full of rain.  Other times memories of happiness bloom in the
heart and suddenly everything is spring.

As it nears
the first anniversary of my mother’s death I remember her taking me to my first
guitar lessons when I was in second grade. 
I remember how she brought me to the creek after the lessons, and let me
lift my pant legs and take off my shoes and socks, and wade in the water to
look for crawfish, turtles, and salamanders. 
This memory snagged my heart like a fish hook a few days ago.  It reeled me back and back until it landed me
in a net of sorrow and gratitude, and I wept like a baby.

So when the
sadness comes, I needn’t ask why.  I
never ask myself why I’m happy.  I just
feel happy.  Why not do the same with
sadness?  Or anger?  Why do some feelings pine for
justification?  Certainly some are more
comfortable to feel than others.  But the
human experience is a mingling of many emotions, each with its own fragrance,
sensation, color, and yes, reason.  Since
they are ephemeral in nature however, it is nearly useless to try and figure
out why we’re feeling whatever it is we’re feeling.  Instead of teaching children to think out why
they’re feeling something, why not teach them to feel what they’re feeling and
not react in harmful ways to the uncomfortable ones (or to the happy ones for that
matter)?

Sure things
need to get talked through, but feelings are like spirits.  They come when they come.  They go when they go.  They probably have their mysterious plans and
reasons for appearing in the blurred edges of your vision, but they might just be
passing through on their way to another soul. 

Rumi called
feelings guests.  He encouraged us to welcome
them in, letting them stay awhile knowing that they’d be moving on soon
enough.  I like his idea and add this one
of my own:  Bless them.  Thank them. 
Bless them all.  Thank them
all.  If you’re feeling something you
have a pulse.  You have hope—no matter
what the feeling.  If you’re emoting,
then just be with your feelings as if you were with a friend or a moving piece
of music.  Listen to them as if they were
senior citizens or young children.  They
have stories to tell.  They won’t
tell you why they exist—but they will just give you glimpses into their hearts,
into their histories with the wind, the stars, the darkness, and the
light.  They will offer you hints into
yourself as long as you approach those hints as if you would a deer or a heron.  Celebrate them.  Lavish them with praise.  Be in wonder. 
They are gifts of the season, the day, the moment, the food you ate, the
air you breathe, the things you’ve done or didn’t do, the things that happened to
you, or didn’t happen; they are fireflies; they are the feathers of owls after
the owl lifts and banks into the marsh. 
Mostly they will open you.  They
will open the windows of your heart and pour in life.  They will reveal you to yourself in that precise
moment in time, and then disappear with the winter wind.

So feel your
feelings.  Be with them in your
body.  Move with them (e-motion).  And give thanks for being alive.

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


…And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down: the Fine Art of Knowing When to Tear Down Walls and When to Build Them

                          

Inspired by a post by Dr. Jean Raffa (http://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/the-secret-to-healing-relationships/) these thoughts about walls came out.

 

The idea of tearing down walls is sort of a paradox for me right now.  We all build walls, naturally and almost effortlessly when we are growing up– “normal” ego-development walls, that is.  But when you add to the mix childhood traumas, then walls became not only natural to build, but necessary, even welcome.  And as I am discovering, most of the walls have to come down in order for me to allow myself to be touched—heart and soul and mind–touched, and to touch others.  The work is slow, for the most part, brick by brick, chink by chink.  Other times, the walls crumble as fast and as dramatically as they must have in Jericho when we are suddenly and unexpectedly inspired or moved by another person or experience.  At times like these, many walls fall, revealing hidden gardens and treasures. 

Some walls remain, however, and I am learning to look at them as blessings—like the guard rails on a mountain or the walls of my house.  Sometimes I need the protective embrace of the earth transformed into brick and mortar.  Sometimes I sit atop the walls and watch.  Other times I lean against them and weep, knowing there is something on the other side, but I am too afraid to climb or even look.  Still other times I revel in the solitude behind the walls and write rivers of words; for paradise, after all, means “an enclosed garden,” and I am learning to be OK with me, and that hidden within the walls of my heart, is a safe place where my dreams are growing. 

I say all this to say, I am still learning which walls need to come down, which need to remain; which need to remain and yet be hopped over or dug under.  There are no easy answers, especially when walls start crumbling without any notice, when the earthquakes of healing wave through and I find myself standing in the light—the light of the wisdom and love of others.  I am learning to step through the wreckage and breathe.  The gardens are still there.  I needn’t fear losing them.  Indeed, they are easier to share once the walls come down. 

Other times walls go up without me realizing it, like I accidently hit the “shields-up” button on the Starship Enterprise…Luckily, I am open enough today to learn how to learn.  And for me, it is not just emotional or soul walls—it’s mental walls also—old ideas and paradigms need to come down too—like it’s OK to earn money trying to help others—doctors do that all the time, or that it’s OK to make money doing what you love. It has taken years for those walls to come down, but luckily they are coming down.

I am slowly learning that, while walls can be fascinating, and strangely refreshing to the touch with their ancient coldness; beautifully constructed with various marbles, schists, and granites, they are still walls—wailing walls, walls to protect, walls to divide, walls to hang paintings on, and walls to put windows and doors into.  It is a lot to sort out—which ones to tear down and which ones to leave, and when it’s OK to build them.  But the rewards of intimacy, of true connections, soul to soul, heart to heart, mind to mind that come from the meetings without walls, are so worth the effort and struggle to be free.

Thank you Dr. Jean, Lefty, Blaine, Mandy and the boys, and all of you, dear readers, who serve as Joshua’s lovely and beautiful horns.

 

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog


Beginnings

This blog began over forty years ago.  Of course, I didn’t know anything consciously about blogs when I was three, but what I did know is: I was a seeker.  I sought after truth, safety, acceptance, love.  And I sought through many avenues and passageways: religions, addictions, relationships, therapies, and many other places to hide.  I say, “hide,” because when one is lonely, hurt, abandoned, abused, there is a yearning to find something, someone, someplace in which to curl up in and hide–anything to fill the hole inside, anything to make it OK, anything to oddly enough keep things the same.  I sought through sordid places, made many mistakes and wrong turns. And after many years of searching and suffering, I had enough—I wanted a change—a new life. 

I embarked on a path in which I didn’t have to be alone anymore.  I didn’t have to hide anymore (unless I consciously chose to).  I didn’t have to be slave to my feelings and negative beliefs and paradigms.  This path brought friends, mentors, and spiritual brothers and sisters in suffering into my life.  And slowly I learned to let them in. 

Some in this fellowship studied and lived by the writings of Emmet Fox and the 12 Steps.  I dove into these teachings out of sheer hopelessness and ended up learning to swim and play (and yes, trudge) through them—constantly discovering ways to apply them to my life.  Today, there is hope.  I have a deep and meaningful conscious-contact with the Wonder Child.  I need never feel lonely again.  The way has opened and I walk hand-in-hand with my fellow seekers.  Creativity and intuition are part of my life now.  And so is joy—the deliciousness of being alive.

One of these seekers suggested I start this blog as a way of celebrating, processing, and sharing my journey in contacting the Wonder Child.  So here I am.  And here you are.  Everyone is welcome.  There is room for everyone.  For everyone has suffered.  Everyone carries shame and guilt.  Everyone carries pain and negative beliefs and self-talk.  And yes, everyone carries within them the Wonder Child.  Let’s embrace the feelings we need to embrace and move together towards our dreams, towards God, towards freedom–towards the Wonder Child.   

Copyright Joseph Anthony of the Wonder Child Blog