Thursday, February 22, 2018

some thoughts on coming home

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her book of published journal entries called "Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead (1929-1932)" wrote:  “Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip?  Once you’re off, that’s all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock.”  That was my own experience for a long time, but the extreme nature of earthquake and convulsion has lessened quite a bit in the last few years.

Recently I was sharing some of my travel experiences with a friend who also does quite a lot of traveling, even though she has a serious disease that limits her capacity to walk or climb stairs.   Still, she travels the world, seeing family and friends, attending retreats and workshops.  Our conversation led to exchanging stories of other friends with severe health limitations, and how frustrating it can be to cope with the endless changes that arrive every day, due to health issues and ordinary aging, but also because everything is always changing, and we both feel our aging and slowing down affects our voyaging.  At one point, one of us said, "if only there was less change involved in living!  We talked about the challenges of leaving home, and the longing to find a place to settle.

Being present with constant change is one of the primary practices in Zen.  First, of course, we have to recognize that change is actually occurring.  It's much more obvious with the big events -- health crises, the ending of relationships, elections, travel...but it's the daily small changes where we get to practice a more subtle recognition.  Every moment is different from the one before, and even our sense of who we are continually shifts.  Once we notice this, we may get a bit knocked off-kilter, and the root koans of "Who am I?" and "What is This?" can arise. 

On Saturday, James Cordova, Sensei, David Rynick, Roshi and I taught our first "Buddhism 101" class of the winter on the subject of the Sixteen Bodhisattva precepts, which begin with the three refuges.  I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  One way we came to understand this taking refuge was that the Buddha is our own awakened heart, the Dharma is the way things are, and the Sangha is the group of people we practice with, both formally in meditation at the Temple, and more generally, with everyone we encounter.  And these three jewels of awakening, reality and community are always available in some shape or form. 

So, in the midst of constant change, I practice taking refuge.  And this means that every moment is an opportunity to come home.

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