Updated On — 18th Jul, 2022
When we come home to who we are in our entirety, as we are here and now in the dynamic flow of impermanence, we discover we never left this place of true refuge and peace.
I spoke on the phone the other day with a dear friend I had not seen in 40 years. We talked about how similar we are– we both suffer from spiritual yearning. Then she told me of her stage four breast cancer.
She asked about teachers and online meditation groups. When I confessed feeling incompetent because I didn’t know what to say about her diagnosis, she made me feel at ease. There’s an urgency here, she said.
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud
I was struggling with how to address that urgency in a helpful way. Yes, we all die, it’s all temporary, everything eventually falls apart. As the Diamond Sutra so pithily states:
So you should view this fleeting world –
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
and yet, and yet …
Yes, of course, but as the 17th century Buddhist poet and priest Issa wrote after his first-born child died shortly after his birth:
The world of dew —
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet . . .
And yet … there is a longing for stability, for protection, for refuge.
We all get the Buddha’s radical teachings on impermanence. But I feel for Issa at that moment, impermanence is not just a philosophical concept, but a real feeling of sadness and longing. The poignant voice of “and yet, and yet…” also seems to suggest there is something else, something waiting for him to discover, something he feels is missing.
But that something else can’t be nailed down. As Ajahn Chah would say:
You can’t make a permanent home in a sankhara
your real home
There is no place to settle down in conditioned patterns. But you don’t really need to worry about it, he retorts, because it’s not your real home anyway. Ajahn Chah continues:
Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but that sort of home is not our real home. It’s a home in the world and it follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner peace. An external material home may well be pretty, but sooner or later we’ll have to give it up. It’s not a place we can live in permanently because it doesn’t truly belong to us, it’s part of the world.’
we discover we never left this place of true refuge and peace
When we come home to who we are in our entirety, not to some borrowed or imposed image, but to who we are, as we are here and now in the dynamic flow of impermanence, we discover we never left this place of true refuge and peace.
We have been pining for something that has been there all along — a silent wakefulness that allows all our experiences to pass through effortlessly.
a spiritual homecoming
My yearning to come home, for this grand spiritual homecoming, was just a lot of craving that only led to more stress and confusion. Yet we need a modicum of skillful yearning to get the Dharma wheels turning.
This yearning is skillful as long as it doesn’t pull you out of the present moment and point to something that’s supposed to happen in some other moment.
As one of my teachers said, stopping me in my tracks:
There is no future enlightenment.
a song the human heart sings
The poet Mark Nepo writes that this spiritual homecoming is not a destination but a song the human heart keeps singing, the way birds keep singing at the first sign of light, and the journey of becoming who we truly are never ends.
We don’t really arrive anywhere new; we just keep growing out of the flow of peace that’s already here.
As we blossom out from the timeless loving awareness we shift smoothly into what Ajahn Chah called the witness to all things.
It is a world of dew indeed. And yet, and yet…there still is a blooming in each passing moment.
the bloom of the present moment
As Thoreau tells us in Walden and Civil Disobedience:
There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hand. I love a broad margin to my life.
Our simple mindfulness practice reveals an ever-blooming peace within, just waiting for you, my dear friend. A loving and comforting flow beyond the clutch of the thinking mind, untouched by any diagnosis or personal history.
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