Monday, January 27, 2014: Warming the Stone Child

Stone child

I woke up Monday morning hearing the words “warming the stone child…” I remembered this is a title from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ canon although did not recall the story. The image however is so evocative, I sat with it awhile, reflecting on winter and the stone cold darkness, on the longing for warmth and nurture, on how nothing warms the stone child like the blazing fire of the heart…

The other phrase I kept hearing was “sonic hydration.” Which struck me as the other medicine the stone child sorely needs.  Heart fire and heart hydration. And we all know the quickest route to these is chanting the Name…

I found a transcription of CPE’s telling of Warming the Stone Child online so was able to read it at class and will also post it here. It’s a beautiful version of this Inuit tale and as I said at class, who knows better how to thrive in the long dark cold of winter but people of the Artic.

Like all great wisdom tales, it transcends time and place and can be felt through myriad lenses of perception. For people on a yogic path, it has a lot to say about clinging to form, about surrender, about the awesome power of tears shed from the depths of suffering—about how everything we search for is within….

It reminds me of the Mirabai poem, The Heat of Midnight Tears which I also read at class. All this in the dharma talk audio clip below.

Here’s the story and the poem:

The Stone Child:
An Inuit Story told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 There was an orphan that was so lonely and so hungry that no one wanted to be near him.  His mouth was open all the time and his teeth were always showing and tears were always running down from his eyes, and he was so wild with hunger that they had to tie him in the entrance to one of the skin houses so he’d not try to eat the hunters on their way to the seal hunt; that’s how hungry he was.

They would, on occasion, leave him some rancid reindeer meat or maybe some spoiled intestines to eat, but, as we know, it was more than hunger that was gnawing at him.  Those deep needs that not even the person themselves understands.  So everyday he stretched his chain a little bit and a little bit more, until he could get near a stone that was more or less the same size as himself.  You see, his mother and father had died one night, and their bodies had been dragged off by bears, and all that had been left behind by them was this one particular stone.  So he wrapped both his arms and his legs around that rock and he wouldn’t let go of it.  And, of course, his people thought he was crazier than ever, and on their way home from the hunt, with animal carcasses slung over their shoulders, they would jeer at him, and they would say, “Analuk has taken a stone for a wife, ha ha.  It’s good for you to have a wife who is a stone, for then you cannot use your hunger and eat her.”  And they went on their way.  

But the boy was so lonely and so hungry that he really had reached the end of his feeling for life.  And even though he had that terrible loneliness and that gnawing hunger, he kept his body wrapped around that stone, and because the stone began to take the heat from his flesh, the boy began to die.  The stone took the heat from his hands, and then it took the heat from his thighs, and it even took the heat from his chin where he rested it on top of the stone.  

And just as the boy was living his last breath, the hunters of his village came by again on their way home from the hunt, and again they called him down, and they said, “You crazy boy!  You are nesting with that stone like it is an egg.  We should call you Bird Boy, you good-for-nothing creature.”  And because the boy was near death, his feelings were hurt more than he could ever say, and great icy tears began to roll down his face and across his parka, and his cold, cold tears hit the hot, hot stone with a sizzle and a hiss and a crack, and it broke the stone right in two.

And inside was the most perfect little female the boy could ever want.  “Come,” she said, “I am here now, and you are an orphan no more.”  And she gave him a bow and arrows and a harpoon she had brought with her, and the boy and the girl made their house and had babies.  And, if they are not yet dead, they are in that land where the snow is violet and the night sky is black.  They are there, living still.

The Heat of Midnight Tears
Mirabai,  English version by Robert Bly

Listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
Kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.

If we could reach the Lord through immersion in water,
I would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
If we could reach Him through nothing but berries and wild nuts,
Then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb!
If we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves,
Then the goats would surely go to the Holy One before us!

If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.

Mirabai says: The heat of midnight tears will bring you to God.

One point I did not get to in this week’s dharma talk is the perfect ending of the Stone Child story: ” They are there, living still…”   Living still.   Such a beautiful evocation of the eternal stillness of the present moment. Reminds me of the opening sutras of Patanjali:

1.1 Atha  yogānushāsanam

1.2 Yogah  chitta  vritti  nirodhaha

1.3 Tadā  drashtu svarupe  avasthānam

Now, in this moment, the study of Yoga, which is the stilling of the thought waves of the mind; and in that stillness we rest in our essential nature.

I’ve walked this path now for nearly forty years and for me, chanting Om Namah Shivaya feels as fresh and alive as that very first time…Every repetition bathing me in sonic hydration, warming me from the inside, breaking open the stone child barriers in heart and mind so I merge, over and over, with the tender magnificence of the Self.

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