Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bead lady

Lately I've been having a harder time than usual getting to my meditation time as early as I like. When I meditate for the first time mid-day or even later, it feels like coming in halfway through a movie or a party, as if I've missed out on half the fun I could have had. Which is true in a sense because that first connection with my breathing, making myself present for the day, makes mindfulness that much easier for the 24 hours ahead.

Ideally my morning sitting fits nice and snug between my shower and breakfast, while the coffee brews. Lately it's been so cold in the morning, zenchild has been beset by a spell of disorganization running around noisily looking for crucial items such as her favorite barrette or worse, her school shoes, and I've been desperately trying to see if I can pass in one assignment for a nursing theory class that will allow me to apply for an extension (what WAS I thinking?). At any rate, I have a litany of excuses as usual.

So since I am so adept at finding and describing all the things that make it hard for me to get to my cushion, I wanted to give equal time to considering the things that make it easier for me to stop stumbling so much with my practice, walk a little straighter, make a greater effort. I came up with a list of conditions that make my sitting more likely...getting to bed on time, sunshine drawing me down the stairs, zenchild's items gathered and ready to go. And then the things that make it easier for me to be mindful during the day...among them some habits I've acquired of returning to my breathe as I start the car and open doors or remembering my teacher Thay whenever I see a cloud (He told the kids once that he is "mmm, perhaps 70% cloud", something that zenchild has not forgotten.) As a child myself my classmates and I were instructed by the nuns to say a prayer whenever we heard church bells and it'd been a habit of mine to connect with the ultimate when I hear bells ringing , even before I'd heard of the bell of mindfulness.

This morning I was reminded of another "bell of mindfulness" and thought to mention her here. She is a very small older asian woman who crosses my path many mornings when I drive my daughter to school. She is walking a route that we've only partially figured out...we don't know her starting point and wonder though we may, we don't know her destination either. In the winter she looks like a small eskimo with her furry hood tightly drawn around her face. No matter what the weather she walks with small, slow steps, smiling a little smile and in her hands, always, rosary beads swinging to and fro with each of her steps. Zenchild reports..."They aren't mala beads. There's definitely a cross on the end" or "Oh look, the beads are green today, almost fluorescent!" For a while she had a theory going that the beads matched her day's outfit but that was disproved. If we don't see her for a while, we worry about her and think to throw in a Hail Mary of our own for her, since she obviously likes them so much.

One particular morning after drop-off, I was having a very tense conversation on my cellphone with Zendad and I pulled into a side street to talk because I was so distracted. As my conversation continued I could see the woman, whom Zenchild calls "bead lady", turn down the street and advance toward my car getting bigger and bigger in my side view mirror. Despite the conversation, I couldn't take my eyes off her. It was sheer admiration for her- the personification of sheer equanimity, faithfulness, dependability. As she came to where I was pulled over she passed by on the other side of the street and as she did, she looked over. I don't know if it was my tear stained face that inspired her or if it was just a whim but she took her beads, turned slightly without stopping, and blessed me with them, making a small cross in the air, deepening her smile for a second and continuing on. It was truly a moment of loving-kindness, of grace.

So she came to my mind this morning with the acknowledgement that she belongs on the list of things and people who help me remain on the path. Thank goodness for people like her. Her good example, the very energy she exudes, makes me want to rush home to my meditation room and hit the cushion running. What would she ever think if I told her this? Some day I'm going to find out.

Authentic Kindness of the Heart


Blogger Nacho said...

Zenmom, what a beautiful post. Thank you. Wonderful to have that "bead lady" as a bell of mindfulness, and more than that, as a mirror for you and your practice. : ) All the best to you and your family,

True Mountain of Compassion
WoodMoor Village

12:44 AM  

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