Archived entries for Buddhism

perfectly imperfect

Two Wednesdays ago, as I was looking for an image of Mu Qi’s “Six Persimmons” to attach to that week’s essay, I began typing “the six per…” into Safari’s search bar. The first suggested connection was “the six perfections.” The universe speaks in many ways. Like an embarrassed woman bumping into someone to whom you have owed a thank you note for a looong time, I recalled where I had first seen these words, how much they had taught me, and how little I had been attending to them of late. I had to admit that in the last several months, while I was initiating this blog about my spiritual path and practice, I had started to slide on actually practicing it. Oh Yeah! Spiritual practice! Something you DO! I DO have one, really! It’s around here, somewhere. On my desk, I think… right under those bills, that rough draft, these books. You know.

Six years ago, as I began the long walk across a soul’s ocean floor that is divorce, three books by American-born Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön were constant friends on my bedside table for four years thereafter—When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, and Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. These very easy reads about very tough things first gave me oxygen, then the space for a deep breath with which to breathe it, and then a complete re-conception of our existence, our purpose, and our potential for happiness, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it… with clear and practical, if not always comfortable, instructions included!

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wrong the rights

Six Persimmons.”  “No, Five.”  “No, SIX.”  “FIVE.”  “The SIX Persimmons.”  “FIVE PERSIMMONS… and no ‘THE’!”

I was right. There were six. And, I was wrong. To even bother arguing about it. With a lover who was a gift and a wide-open door in my young life, no less. Oh, but I was the one who had taken the course on Asian Art.  I had studied this, the most revered ink painting in all of Zendom, in detail. I had oohed and aahed over those six perfectly imperfectly executed blobs of produce many times. The fact that the only thing worth meditating upon all this time, and all that this man was attempting to share with me, was Beauty… well, needless to say, I blew right past that on my way to Being Right.

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noooo way

The Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Christian were all sitting together. They were taking questions now. There was a big pause. I had not intended to cause discomfort. I had actually hoped for a different answer.

The Christian, a Methodist minister with a warm and quiet demeanor, had spoken gently about God as Love and about how we are all called to this Love by this Loving God. Lots of love, lots of God. Very nice. But, this Christian never actually got around to mentioning Jesus of Nazareth. This was confusing.

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a very good thing

“She is very young.  It is a good thing!” I was the very young, at twenty-four. My new lover was forty, and the leader of my trek in Nepal. The declarer of good things was Anil, the lead Sherpa of the trek, and a more intuitive and insightful man I would rarely again meet.  Well, except his brother Arun.

My inamorato was a dealer in Asian antiquities as well as a mountain guide. So, after the trek, in between mornings and evenings ensconced in a tiny room at a hostel, I would accompany him to dusty shops of trinkets and treasures and talk with the relatives while he negotiated with the owners. Anil owned the best shop, off a twisting side street near the Boudhanath stupa. Arun kindly made me mint tea while the eyes of that stupa peered through the window, as curious as me. What questions I asked, I cannot remember, but I did somehow keep the treasure of one of his answers.

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walls without sides

Mani walls are like generous mounds of pause buttons in and along the paths of the Himalaya. So called because each flat stone has been carved with the mantra “Om mani padme hum,” they are meant to be walked around, a momentary 360 degrees, a freely offered chance to take an intentional breath and get a glimpse of how wide the world really is between all the various point A’s and B’s.

I was twenty-four, sitting on a backpack and leaning back upon sacred words, but ruminating on how my father, in response to this little revelation, would likely mutter that I had been wandering around a bunch of mani for close to three years now. Twelve time zones away, so young and trying so hard to “get” somewhere in my life, and with the amazing good fortune to even be there at all, and I was still in Houston, Texas.  Running away, but arriving nowhere.
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pesky plumage and the right to bear wings

Feathers grace my path. Like fuzzy talismans, like they are saying Yes, so far so good, keep going this way. So many, recently, that I almost feel like yelling back to the universe, “OK!  I got it, really. I GOT it!”  But, of course, I don’t completely get it. I believe in signs, but I feel them more than I really understand them. I am, like all of us, an unfolding spirit. I do seem to be “getting” things a bit more and more these days, but never fully. I am never finished. Nor are you.
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