Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sixteen Foot Buddha

"With a blade of grass, we create a golden Buddha which is sixteen feet high." (Not Always So. Shunryu Suzuki.)

I just completed a difficult work project that has occupied most of my waking hours throughout January. Throughout that process, I both struggled mightily with my practice, and also found beautiful refuge in my practice. My regular sitting practice suffered because I had to constantly work. Several days into our hardest week on the project, I was extremely close to burning out, and my body let me know it by catching a brutal 24-hour flu -- my first flu in over 10 years. It was at that point I recognized that no work project was worth my health, and yet my task would not complete itself. So I put the work I had to do aside and sat for 30 minutes.

In my meditation space, I learned a tremendous lesson.

As Shunryu Suzuki says in the quote that opened this post, "With a blade of grass, we create a golden Buddha which is sixteen feet high." The joy in life opens up for us when we can look at even the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential thing, and see something as glorious as a sixteen foot golden Buddha. In my hell-week meditation, I saw directly how I was the source of my own suffering, with my response to aspects of the project, and it was completely in my power to respond differently. I was not seeing the sixteen foot Buddha sitting right in front of me, within the task I was spending so much time on. After that, I slowed myself down and worked with a mindful awareness of myself working, regardless of the deadlines that seemed impossible to meet. And what I found was that I was more efficient, more effective, and more calm throughout the entire process. I took what life was presenting me as my practice. So while my sitting practice still suffered, I gained valuable experience seeing that there is always time and a means to practice, if only I allow myself to see the shimmering golden Buddha within each blade of grass.

1-Minute Contemplation: Take a moment and consider a recent time when you looked at your blade of grass and saw only a hair-thin stripe of plant. Looking back, having achieved some space from this event, can you see a glimpse of the glorious golden Buddha?