In one of the most famous Buddhist stories, instead of speaking, Sakyamuni simply twirled a flower in his hand before the assembled crowd. Only one disciple, Mahakashyapa, understood and smiled.

A Drop of Water

In a world fraught with conflicts and problems of all kinds, I must see and think for myself. The Buddhist view is that if a person reflects in just this thorough way, he or she will discover at bottom that no such personal self exists…a moment of Enlightenment.

Well, I am in no place to speak of such things, but I do know this — that when I really look right into the fires of the world around me and into the fires of my own life, and do so unflinchingly, what I see does cause me to turn away for awhile in deep reflection. The raging needs of our times, my times, leave me in awe.

And it becomes a matter of inner power to work as I can in the face of those raging fires, knowing perhaps I ultimately could be burned up in the process. I’m not willing to stop, even if all I have to offer is a single drop of water to quell the flames.

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Like many of you, I once went through that heartbreaking life episode called divorce. My wife and I both endured a period of surreal agony. We’d been married eighteen years. Every day of that transition and many times later in their young lives I saw the pain in my children’s faces. They were 10 and 7 then (and now are 24 and 21). My best friend cried as he helped me move my furniture out of my house. There was anger to deal with, aching despair, guilt. Through it all I just kept walking forward, as if in a labyrinth, headed for the center through one excruciating turn after the next. And then, one day, it was done.

Looking back, what would I say drove me forward to cross such a threshold? For surely my world was on fire, and it would have been so much easier in certain respects to simply stop, go back, turn around and try to return to what had been. I think the answer is in that drop of water. A drop that exists beyond psychology, on a different plane completely; contained in the Buddha’s twirling flower right in front of me. If you see all the way to the center of something, I think, you can find a still point of awareness, of compassion, and you can stop participating so much in the mad merry-go-round.

And there have been so many times when in my work, I’ve faced that same gesture of life. Times when there was not enough work. Times when I screwed up the work or failed to get the work in the first place — all things that hurt and needed to be owned. And I’m amazed at how I keep coming back again and again, keep thinking and feeling, sensing, leading — so that the single drop of water in this very moment suddenly resembles a well. And around that well, in the beautiful sunlight, remembered flowers and trees come to life, and their scents are carried far away on the wind — and I recall again how much I truly love my life, and how much gratitude I feel for all of it just as it is.


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  • Sharon wrote:

    Thank you for a truly beautiful posting. It was exactly what I needed today as I pulled myself up by my bootstraps once again, needing to remind myself that each opportunity no matter how small or big provides the opening for appreciation, learning, achievement, and grace. Thank you.

  • You are most welcome, Sharon. Thank you for taking a moment to leave your kind comment.

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