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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