At the beginning of September, monthly messages will again be posted at the beginning of every month.


Dear Friends,

Stories are wonderful and powerful. Here's a story for this time when we all look around and feel impelled to do more, and yet wonder what to do. What is enough? What is our field of action? How do we help? Is it ever enough? Will anything bring change to the world, really, deeply? These are our unanswerable questions. This story is not an answer, just a word of encouragement, a metaphor of hope.

This is my re-telling of one of the Jataka tales, which are the traditional stories of the Buddha's lifetime before he became a Buddha, all the lives in which he gave of himself in the service of others on his way to becoming a Buddha. Many of them are lifetimes in the animal realm, and we are reminded again of what powerful teachers the animals and plants are for us humans. This story is about a brave little parrot. I can also recommend two great versions of this story, told by my friend Rafe Martin, storyteller and author, for children and adults. One is in the beautifully illustrated children's book published by Putnam ("The Brave Little Parrot") and the other is in a collection of traditional Jataka tales re-told by Rafe in his book entitled "The Hungry Tigress," published by Yellow Moon Press.


(Imagine now, far away and right here, a place, real and not real, and a time, now and then, always and never, the forest, the garden, the place where it all began, the almost-remembered realm of green-forest and dark-river light, the place you know from your deep dream).

Once upon a time, perhaps even now at this moment, in such a forest, lives a blue parrot, all by herself. She is happy in her solitude, because really, she is never alone. There is the sky, her companion and her mirror, the same color as herself, into which she disappears and from which she emerges day after day. At night, there are countless branches where she can alight and be at home; under the stars she tucks her head beneath her wing and sleeps. From sky and branch she watches lions and tigers, mice and elephants, snakes and tigers. She watches vines grow and flowers bloom, fruit fall and rivers flow.

She loves her forest with her very life, because it is her life. She does not know herself apart from the forest. Its sounds are her songs, its rhythms are the beat of her wings. Its breath is hers.

(Imagine now, is this true of you? Can you know yourself apart from the world in which you dwell? Do the rivers flow with your blood, do the wings of birds move in tune with the beat of your heart, are you forever entwined with the branches of the trees, can you move anywhere but in your own being)?

One summer day as she emerges from the blue sky and lands on a high branch across the river from her forest, she feels a sudden fear. Her skin, bones, and feathers all quiver, shaken by a terrible knowing. She takes off quickly, carried by the dry, hot wind, blown by her urgent intuition, and yes, as she flies above the forest, there it is in front of her, a dark column of smoke, rising from the forest below. Down she goes, through the smoke, and into the blaze of flame; it is too hot, too fierce, she flies quickly up. Flocks of birds sweep by, and their message comes on currents of smoke: go, they say, there is nothing to be done, save yourself, come with us.

She resists the pull, hovers in the air. She has glimpses of her friends, the elephants and tigers, the snakes and mice, catapulting toward the river, desperate for life, mad with fear, running beyond breath and hope as the fire pursues them and consumes the trees that are her home, her haven, her rest. She hovers, torn between fear and love, unable to move in any direction; the little blue parrot hangs in the sky, wings beating to the rhythm of the race for life below, madly, desperately.

(Imagine, now: on the other side of the world, perhaps, war rages, children die, fires burn. The flames never stop, whether it is on the other side of the world, next door, hundreds of years ago or right now. Do you know the feeling of the little blue parrot in yourself, hovering, helpless, wanting to help, torn between fear and love? Do you feel the pull to escape to a safe place, far from the fire, do you wonder where that could be and do you long for it? Knowing yourself to be intimately interwoven with your world, where could you go)?

She rises for a moment above the smoke, into the great blue empty sky, full of light. In the stillness and peace she watches the forest. Decision point. What can she do? Her fear won't let her descend, her love won't let her fly away.

Far away, just winding into the horizon, she sees the river glimmer through the smoke, the river that goes to the sea, from which the animals drink, where they bathe and play; toward that river they now race with their last breath and strength while the forest burns. The little parrot feels herself lifted, carried towards the river. She does not stop to think. She only knows, there is water. She is carried down, into the river, she dives deep and soars high, flies back over the fire, low, as low as she can, right into the heart of it, and shakes the drops of water out of her feathers, off her body. She watches the little silver drops of light fall into the great flames. There isn't even a sizzle, not a hiss, nothing. The water is consumed, the fire moves on heedlessly, inexorably.

(Imagine now: where is your sky? Where do you find peace, stillness, space, the time to reflect? How do you rise above the smoke and flame, the turmoil and chaos, and feel yourself, your direction, your way? Where is your river? Where do you touch the source of your being, that which brings you life and energy? How do you share it? Does what you share feel like so little, not enough, never enough? Do you know the feeling of the little parrot, looking down and seeing those little drops of water disappear in the vast fire)?

She keeps it up, all day and all night, all night and all day, a little blue bird in a gray, smoke-filled sky. The fire keeps blazing, and she keeps flying, in and out of the river, endlessly.

From even further above, the story has it, the gods and goddesses look down. They watch the drama unfold. Bets are placed. She'll give up, says one god. What good is it anyway, says another. Silly bird.

Off to the side stands the goddess of the river. She watches. Gods and goddesses don't cry, but at last she does. A huge tear, bigger than earth, bigger than sky, bigger than anything except the heart of that little blue parrot, falls from her divine eye, down from the heavens through the heavens. She sighs, an endless sigh, a breath that roars down just behind the tear, catches it, carries it straight to the forest, right to the fire.

All around the little parrot the storm gathers, the clouds darken and the wind grows strong. The tear of the goddess turns to a thousand, a hundred thousand, a thousand million raindrops pelting down, great waves of water falling from above.

The little parrot is too weary to rejoice. She flies high again, above the storm, drifts on the wind, waits to see. Yes, there it is. The clouds clear, the fire is out.

She descends, into the blackened forest, finds her favorite branch. It is still smoking. She lands, looks through the tangle of charred branches, through the skeleton forest, to the rainbow that arches above the river. She feels the song of the forest returning already.

In a moment she too will sing again.

(Imagine this now: that it all matters, in some mysterious and unknowable way, every little drop of water, every compassionate action, every moment of awareness, every intent toward peace, in your own life, here, now. Imagine: how many times have you seen destruction and creation, death and rebirth? How many times have you dedicated yourself to bringing life, light, love? Does that make you feel hopeless or give you a sense of purpose? Fires come, rain falls. The little parrot soars in the sky, dips in the river, shakes her wings. The fire goes out, for now. She rests and sings. She'll be called on again, no doubt.

In the story, the brave little parrot is alone in the empty sky. It can feel that way. Imagine: the sky is full of little parrots.

Please note: It's a little parrot, not a lion or tiger or elephant, that changes the outcome, brings the rain and puts out the fire. Perhaps in the great mystery of things the little is always connected to the great).

Donna Leslie Thomson
Glorieta, New Mexico

May all beings be happy, peaceful, and free of suffering.

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Previous Meditations

Spring 2005 - Do You Know?
February-March 2005 - The Inner Treasure
November-December 2004 - The Light at the Heart of Everything
September-October 2004 - Continuous Prayer
July 2004 - The Open Heart
March February 2004 - Global Awareness
New Years 2004 - Know Yourself
December 2003 - Community
November 2003 - The Star
September 2003 - Illumination
July 2003
May 2003 - The Legend of Waterwoman
April 2003 - Easter
March 2003 - What Do You Value?
February 2003 - Energy
January 2003 - New Years 2003
December 2002 - Christmas 2002
November 2002 - The Presence of Spirit
October 2002 - The Spirit of Love and Peace
September 2002 - Hope
August 2002 - Ask and You Shall Receive
July 2002 - Faith
June 2002 - The Circle
May 2002 - Strength and Power
April 2002 - Water
March 2002 - A Prayer
February 2002 - The Feast of Imbolc
January 2002 - Remember
December 2001 - Inner Silence
November 2001 - Weeping for the World /Impermanence (Anicca)
October 2001 - Non-violence
September 2001 - Affirmation
August 2001 - The Mirror of the Cosmos
July 2001 - Energy
June 2001 - Simplicity
May 2001 - The Labyrinth
April 2001 - Spring, Renewal, Rebirth
March 2001 - Joy and Sorrow
February 2001 - Take Good Care of Yourself
December 2000 - January 2001 - Winter Solstice and New Year's Meditation
November 2000 - Peace
October 2000 - Love
September 2000 - The Space Between
August 2000 - Creativity
July 2000 - Honoring the Earth
June 2000 - Walking the Path
May 2000 - Cosmic Energy
April 2000 - Nurturing
March 2000 - How to Consult an Oracle, Equinox Meditation

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