O brothers and sisters,
If you recognise me,
Queen of the Lake of Awareness,
who encompasses both emptiness and form,
know that I live in the minds
of all beings who live.
Know that I live in the body of mind
and the field of the senses,
that matter is only my bones and skin.
We are not two,
yet you look for me outside;
when you find me within yourself,
your own naked mind,
that Single Awareness will fill all worlds.
Then the joy of the One
will hold you like a lake –
its fish with gold-seeing eyes
will grow many and fat.
Hold to that knowledge and pleasure,
and the Creative will be your wings.
You will leap through the green meadows
of earthly appearance,
enter the sky-fields, and vanish.
by Yeshe Tsogyal, edited by Jane Hirshfield
The meaning of this poem (found in Women in Praise of the Sacred, edited by Jane Hirschfield) may not be clear or easily accessible, yet still I’m drawn to it today. To be addressed by awareness feels powerful. And to be addressed by awareness speaking with a female voice affects me in particular way. I can confirm this by imagining the same words from a male voice. When I do this something changes, which I find intriguing. For me, awareness with a female voice brings a less reticent response. I feel more easily invited to follow the voice towards awareness itself. The metaphors are mysterious but some part of me deep down recognises what is being communicated and wants to join in. This is energising and engaging and I’m ready to leap into the sky-fields to join with ‘The Queen of the Lake of Awareness’.
Within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, awareness is personified in many forms, one of which is female and made of dynamic white translucent light. She dances in the sky with radical freedom. Yeshe Tsogyal, who wrote the poem above, is imagined in this way as a deity. One of the things I value most about Tibetan Buddhist practice is that it teaches us that what we imagine is what our mind becomes. If we imagine in a limited, restricted and self-preoccupied way, we will generate this kind of mind-state. If we imagine in an unhindered, vast and loving way, then our mind will burst its habitual banks and naturally return to its oceanic source. By beckoning us with words like ‘Lake of Awareness’, ‘all worlds’, ‘let the creative be your wings’, this is the door that I believe this poem is opening for us.
PS. If you are interested in the power of poetry to “open doors in the air” (Jane Hirshfield), then join me for a mystical poetry weekend or course soon. See the options here (evening classes online) and here (weekend in London) and here (weekend online and in Scotland).
If you want to learn how the imagination can open doors to compassion through meditation practice come along to the Introduction to Compassion weekend in London. Find out more here.