Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Peace is every step

Today is one of those days where I feel like an enormous effort is required to just keep breathing and the waters are rising fast. All around are pieces needing to be picked up and the task looks large, large, large. Appointments, insurance papers, strong emotions, pain...amid the everyday "stuff" of life. What is it that Thich Nhat Hahn says when someone really blunders? That their practice is "not so skillful"...I think that could be it. He seems to say it with a big grin and a little shrug as if to add "That's how it is sometimes". That's how it is for me today.

It's really a very kind compassionate way to look at what we might normally call "failure" because the sense is that compassion and understanding are skills and if we don't have them so much now there is a possibility that we can learn them. We can increase our capacity, our skill level, by practicing the teachings. Great teachers rarely waste time blaming or shaming. I'm trying to learn that too.

It's one of the beautiful features of Buddhist teaching as I understand it...that we learn to love others by first accepting and loving ourselves, that we achieve liberation and then look to the goal of liberation for others too, that suffering can be understood and transformed into peace and joy.

At a retreat last summer, I decided to purchase a special gift for myself, a calligraphy by Thay. I took my time, mindfully considering each of the black inked phrases available that day. "I am home", "I have arrived", "Interbeing", "Drink your tea", "Peace in myself, Peace in the World" but the one that spoke to me most deeply was "Peace is every step" because it reminds me that all the places we go, we get there one step at a time (this is good for my rushing problem) but also that each step is a new chance to choose peace (good for my "I blew it" mind) and that I have always before me the opportunity to begin again, right here, right now.

I think I'm going to take a few moments to sit quietly before the framed calligraphy and immerse myself in the lovely truth of that message, reminding myself that I can take refuge in the dharma anytime. I can feel the smile of the teacher, I can see the little shoulder shrug, and I feel very grateful that a renegade monk from a war-torn land opened his heart to share his love and wisdom with us. Very skillfully. It inspires me to keep on practicing.

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


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