Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

‘happiness runs in a circular motion…’ ~

There are good things happening, and as the days continue to lengthen, moving inexorably to year-end, here are a couple that made me smile yesterday and today.

First? As I walked through the cutting wind to my classroom the other day, a young man was popping quarters into a meter on the street. “Good move,” I told him. “They boot cars here — I saw one just yesterday.”  He smiled and moved to the next meter, dropping a quarter into that one, as well.  Meter by meter, he topped off each one. By the 4th, I was grinning.

“That is so nice!” I told him.

“Yesterday I barely got the quarter in ahead of the person writing the ticket.” He grinned back. “But I did!” And he continued down the street, spreading holiday cheer quarter by quarter. He certainly made my day.

Then today I read that anonymous donors are paying off the KMart layaway balances of needy families. That’s great enough news — especially when you read that the donors are targeting families whose layaways are primarily children’s Christmas toys. But when you then find out that at least one of the recipients of the generous goodwill used part of the money she didn’t have to spend to pay yet another family’s layaway… You see why the idea of circles and ripples comes to mind :). (Moment of music, just because it’s happy, and has to do w/ the spread of happiness ~)

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Certainly I can tie this kind of selfless, anonymous generousity act to spiritual practice. But honestly? It’s the time of year when we let schedules, ‘ought to’ and ‘should have’ dominate our hours. When the list lengthens faster than we can check off what’s been accomplished.

So pour yourself some hot chocolate — maybe even splurge on marshmallows! Two! And relax. Take a breather — appropriate for Buddhists, especially. And smile at the goodwill of people around the country. Remember that there is more to life than hustle & bustle. Peace. And goodwill. They’re the best remedy I know. For darn near anything ~

 

‘All-American Muslim’ & religious (in)tolerance ~

So once again a so-called Christian family values group (the Florida Family Association) is attempting to use money to trump Constitutional rights. And tolerance…

FFA successfully urged home improvement big-box Lowe’s to pull its advertising from the TV show All-American Muslim. Calling the show ‘propoganda,’ FFA basically called all American Muslims a ‘clear & present danger’ to America.

I don’t get it. I grew up in a Christian household, and nowhere in the Bible (which we were expected to read in toto, just FYI) does Jesus say we’re supposed to propogate fear against our neighbours. In fact, the parable of the Good Samaritan (in Luke, for those of you who haven’t read your Bible) pretty clearly states that neighbours help each other — even those framed by a legacy of hatred. Samaritans and Jews were not friendly in the time of Jesus. So for a Samaritan to be more honourable than even a priest is a big deal.

I fully accept every American’s right to vote w/ his or her pocketbook. But the co-opting of a religion based in love, a religion that gave us the Beatitudes (blessed are the peacemakers), seems so unfortunate. Especially at this time of celebration, when the Christian world is in Advent, anticipating the birthday of Jesus.

Just how can Americans — who happen to be Muslim — be considered ‘a clear & present danger’ simply by virtue of their faith? What is so scary about these other children of Abraham?

I know I’m only a beginner at this whole ‘love your neighbour’ thing, but this kind of behaviour strikes me as… well, not very loving. And very sad, as well ~

‘save me from my righteous doubt…’ ~

One of my favourite Christmas songs isn’t really about  Christmas. At least,  not just about Christmas… It’s about “I want to buy in to the benevolent,” and “So goes the prayer if for a day peace on earth/ And good will to man…” In other words, it’s about more than one religion, or even one holiday… YouTube Preview Image

This time of year, there’s a tug-of-war going on that puzzles me. It’s the whole “Happy Holidays vs. Merry  Christmas” skirmish. I hesitate to frame this in military terms, as at least one national group has called it ‘The War on Christmas.’ And I don’t think it is. In fact, the only people I know upset are, actually, a very few Christians. None in my family (and we have 4 Christian ministers, from 2 denominations). None among my colleagues. None of my close friends. [...] Continue Reading This Post »

Bodhi Day, Rohatsu, or Waking Up ~

Bodhi Day — or Rohatsu, as it’s known in Japan — is the day the Buddha awakens. It’s the day he finds enlightenment, sitting under the pipul tree. December 8th, traditionally.

A dear friend asked me the question I’m usually asking: so what? What does Bodhi Day mean? Disclaimer here: I’m not a worshipping kind of Buddhist. I don’t believe the Buddha was a god, nor even divine. The whole point to Buddhism is that a human being did this — achieved enlightenment. And that the rest of us — because he elected to teach — can also choose that path.

So here’s what I believe, and why Bodhi Day is important:

I believe in little enlightenments — like the day I realised that all the people and beings and plants and seas and fallen stars still live. In our breaths. That as we breathe out, we breathe our own cells into the air. And as we breathe in, we breathe in dinosaurs and comets and poets and bees and Frederick Douglass and Christopher Marlowe and Rumi and wars and loss and love and all that makes up our amazing world. And this connects us. To each other ~ in a kind of web that extends in all directions. Forever.

I believe in the day I drove into honeyed golden light — it might have been November — and drank in the  air and the blue Oklahoma sky and thought: this is enough. This moment, this light ~ it’s enough. Or the night when I listened to my heart breaking, felt it fall to pieces for my mother’s old age, and realised: we are all this fearful. And in the ragged breathing for all of us, I was comforted. Or the moment I held my aging mother-in-law in a tight hug, and inhaled deeply, grateful for the material presence of her fragile, birdbone body. You’re still here. Dimming mind does not shadow bright heart.

None of these is enlightenment, not by a long shot. They’re each only a  tiny glimpse along a journey full of detours (my anger at injustice, my frustration with my own impatience), a path strewn with obstacles my vanities, my prides. A life lived with a fallible human heart.

And the point to Bodhi Day?It celebrates possibility. Ours. Because a guy named Siddhartha achieved enlightenment, we know it’s possible. Because he laid out some fairly simple suggestions life is transient/ desire is suffering/ compassion is the way we can live better lives. Become better people. Leave this world better for our having breathed into it.

I’m so far from anything other than tiny glimpses of possibility that I’m profoundly grateful for Bodhi Day. For the knowledge that someone else managed to get it together. That he thought some of us might be able to, as well. And Bodhi Day is like a promise to a child (at least for me): when you grow up? Things will be different. You’ll make it. I promise.

Happy Bodhi Day. Happy Rohatsu, if you’re in the Zen tradition. Happy Possibility.

 

 

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