Updated: Jan 25, 2021
*To everything there is a season...
One of the few upsides to living in a world in the throes of a global pandemic, is that many of the events that you would rather not get dressed for or travel to, suddenly come to you. Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to virtually attend a Sunday morning liturgy at the Pine Winds Zen Monastery Temple, a local place of worship which holds a special place in my heart, but that I haven't been able to step foot in for over a year.
I'm not sure what inspired me to search out the virtual session. To be completely honest, I started out quarantine certain that there would be some meaning to be found in what we were all going through. That the light at the end of the tunnel would be some grand revelation, explaining all that we were experiencing. As if it could somehow magically make sense.
Stepping into the (virtual) temple, I had all but given up on finding any meaning in the events of the world since I have last written. I know that I was not looking to resume the mantle of my search here. Spoiler, even if I was looking for it, I wouldn't have found it. But what I did find was that, I was looking for that light in the wrong place all along.
The light at the end of the tunnel is not some light that the world brings to us. it, in fact, our own inner illumination that we bring to the world.
It's been a while since I've written, but this marks my official return to this space, and in turn what I intend to bring to my small world. This is the mission statement of The Bespoke Rose.
And a time to every purpose under heaven...
The teachings, practices, and cultures of world religions have long fascinated me, and I consider myself a student and devotee of many; I think that there is so much to be derived and learned from a varied perspective. In my mind, heart, I believe there is but one God, one Universe, one Nature. one Force--whatever name strikes your fancy. But in my spirit, Zen Buddhism is where I feel most at home; I am truly in love with the sights, sounds, rituals, and teachings of the temple.
The particular teaching of this Sunday morning was not a new one for me to hear; in fact, it is one of the first teachings of Zen that I had ever heard. It is also one of its most simple. But we must never mistake simplicity for ease. But with practice comes mastery, and it is with this first writing of 2021 that I start mine.
Waking up the morning, we usually approach the day with a sense of "what will happen to me today?". We wish for favorable circumstance to impact and shape our lives. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that in some seasons, there are none to be found. How then, can we go forth when there is no light to be seen?
And the answer, is found in the reversal of the question: that question that we all by human nature ask ourselves every morning as we greet the day. Instead of asking "What will the world bring to me?", we need to start the practice of asking: "What will I bring to the world?".
A time to mourn...
The first thing that I want to bring to this platform is my heart's empathy. I have lost two very dear loved ones during this season of darkness; not to the pandemic, but to me loss bears the same weight regardless of age, time, or circumstance.
To all those who have lost a loved one, I truly and sincerely offer my deepest condolences. To those have lost their health or livelihoods, I pray that they would each return to you tenfold in the near future. And you certainly do not need to hear it from me of all people, but if you need someone to give you permission to mourn without hesitation, consider it given from the Universe. One of the most basic principles of Zen, one of the ones that resonates most with me, is that you need to have the permission to allow your feelings to flow, in exactly the direction that they take.
When I first started learning about Zen, I thought that it meant that you were "blissed-out" all of the time. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth. Zen teaches that if you seek to be in blissful happiness all of the time, your suppressed feelings will surface somewhere down the road--sometimes in emotion, sometimes in circumstances, sometimes even in physical illness.
Zen teaches the practice of flowing with your emotions, "leaning into" them if need be, to return to a state of balance. I hope that you will find here a space where the world is not sugar-coated, but where you might find real-life laughter, happiness, joy, light, and hope.
A time to dance...
Another key principal of Zen is its focus away from the pursuit of perfection. In trying to be "perfect", we in fact become rigid, stagnant, and unavailable to real inspiration. In short, it is a recipe to grow as far away from your own idea of perfect as you could be, and certainly one for unhappiness.
In continuing in this space, I know that God has blessed me with a means of projecting my voice into the world, but what good is that gift if I feel so stifled by writing the perfect words that I never write any??
In late 2019 and early 2020 as I launched this site, I spent literally hours, days, weeks even, on each piece, trying to craft my ideas and words into the perfect shapes. I suppose deep down I believed that my words could somehow transform the world, or at least my world, in the same way. But this year shattered any notion of that being true, for better or worse. I'm choosing to see it as "for better".
So if you looking for airbrushed and hyperbolic perfection here--in my writing, or in subsequent on-brand beauty, style and living content--you won't find it. [This piece was written in afternoon, and I'm ok with whatever roughness exists....] What I hope you will find, is the freedom to be exactly who you are now, and who you will be as you grow into the future.
And with that, I offer the final piece of my mission at The Bespoke Rose...
A time to love...
I began my fledgling career as a style blogger reporting from a closed event at the Gap HQ, an absolute dream of an auspicious and exciting beginning for a no-name on the blogging landscape. Even as excited as I was then, I had no idea what a miracle that night was. Lock-down followed 3 short months after that magical Christmas season. I will be grateful for and remember that night Forever...... But let's be honest. Then or now, The Gap does not need me. And that's more than ok. Because sometimes in finding out who we are not, we come closer to finding who we are.
The Bespoke Rose mission going forward will be to shine my light, small or large as it may ever be, on products and small brands without big advertising budgets. Whatever your views are on the only lock-downs that have ensued as a result of this pandemic, there is no doubt that small names, businesses and products deserve a stage, and need all of us right now, more than ever.
The Bespoke Rose will be giving as many of them as I can find an exclusive voice. I will never write a bad review (imo, what's the point of that?? Especially now, when so many are heartbreakingly on the brink of extinction??). So if you see it featured here, you can be assured that I believe in it with all my mind, heart, and soul. And that it is an amazing find. Because in my humble opinion, God also blessed me with great taste (well, maybe not so humble, Lol).
So without further ado, here are my Mind, Body, and Soul (as the Bespoke Rose Zen underpinnings dictates a holistic approach) picks for January of 2021:
Mind: Book--Be Water, My Friend by Shannon Lee
I have been a Bruce Lee fan for a long time, but even if you are not, this part bio, part document of Bruce Lee's uniquely curated philosophies of Kung Fu and Zen (written by his daughter), are an absolute must-read for anyone living through this moment on earth. I have only scratched the Zen surface here in this piece; Shannon Lee expertly imparts the genius of the philosophy, and of the mind and spirit of Bruce Lee.
Body: Brand--Working Order, Unwind Lavender Cocoa
This scrumptious, all-organic small batch brew--spiked with select adaptogens--was dreamt up in Brooklyn, and helped calm me, and find sleep. when nothing else would. Enough said. This will be my first piece of extensive Bespoke Rose content; stay tuned for the full review in February!
Soul: Album: "As You Were", Liam Gallagher
Yes, if you are familiar with this artist or his former band, Oasis, you will know that this title does not exactly fit under the "no advertising, no high-profile" ethos. I thought maybe I could get away with it since he is not exactly a household name in the US. This album has almost single-handedly been carrying me through this period. Its about leaving a whirlwind of life, and then returning to a world you don't recognize anymore, in which you have to to completely re-imagine how (and who) to be. It was released in 2017, but if that doesn't fit 2020/21. I don't know what does.
And a time to hate...
Even though I was born a decade after, I've always been a fan of the music of the 1960s. It's amazing how such beautiful sounds could be born out of a period of such outer (and inner) turmoil and destruction. But I suppose it was born of the ultimate flow of Zen; in a world full of sudden darkness and war, artists and listeners found a space to express their angers, their fears, their hopes, their visions of peace.
The most influential recording artists of that era, The Beatles, voiced the importance of peaceful expression. While they while they were clear advocates of standing up, speaking out, fighting for your beliefs, they were also clear in distinguishing, "When you talk about destruction/Don't you know that you can count me out". But there can be no discussion or doubt that the era's most important voice of the peaceful warrior was and is that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His message, legacy and Dream transcend time, and continue to propel humanity forward, now and forever.
As so many scenes from the past year, and already of the present one, have come to tragically echo those of the cultural landscape of the turbulent 1960s, We the People must renew our determination to follow the path of peace; to allow for the healthy flow and space for our emotions before they spiral and manifest into the disease of destruction.
And that involves hearing the opinions of others that are definitely going to piss us off, no matter which side(s) of the proverbial fence we reside. But we have no other choice, we have to make this our practice. We may fail again and again, but we must be willing to get up again and again as well. And the only way to do that is to listen to each other, as we have never listened before. MLK famously said, "Riots are the language of the unheard", which seems to directly contradict his message of peace. But while this may seem at face-value a rationalization of violence, I believe this statement to be a stark warning instead.
Explaining why something exists is completely separate from its justification. There can be no doubt of intention when MLK proclaimed, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that; Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is his legacy and our Holy Grail. Only in raising our voices in peace, and in extending our hearts in love, however futile peace and love may seem, will humanity "live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal".
**A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.
We must continue to condemn violence, in whatever form it takes, and for whatever reason it presents itself, and the only true way to truly condemn violence is to practice peace ourselves. By loving our brothers and sisters as ourselves, and by truly listening to what each of us has to say, by serving each other in every opportunity that presents itself. Love and Peace are the highest and most important ideals of humanity, but they are only achieved by the actions that are required of them.
Which brings us back to the start. Instead of asking "what will the world do for me today?" we must begin to ask, "what can I do for the world?". Or as the spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, the inspiration behind Dr. Martin Luther King's vision for the country and the world, best proclaimed, "You must be the change that you want to see in the world."
The question will not be easy to ask, the answers will not be easy to give, but I intend today, to practice, to each day walk closer and closer to that beautiful dream. I hope that you will join me on my journey, I look forward to marching in Love and Peace together with you.
And I will certainly look forward to sharing a little bit of fun, laughter, and a spectacular cup of cocoa with you in February; this is the intention and scope of my walk today. All too often, we think that "being the change" means being or doing something grand. But it is the little things, and the intentions of our hearts, that truly light the way through the dark. The light at the end of the tunnel is not the flash of the sun's return--the light is--and always has been--You.
Love, Peace, and Blessings, and I will see you on the Yellow Brick Road.
Xo, The Bespoke Rose
*Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 8
**"Turn, Turn, Turn!"; Pete Seeger, The Byrds