Thursday, May 24, 2012

Standing in the midst of the mall

Recently we had occasion to go to an enormous glittering mall.  We ate lunch on a mezzanine  above the crowd, watching the people.  It seemed that many use this as a place to meet, to wander.  It's like a giant party, much more mixed-race than it was 20 years ago; in fact, just recently a census showed that Caucasians are now a minority in births in America.  To get perspective on this, when I was in high school in the fifties in a very ordinary middle-class neighborhood, there were three black people in my class of 600, and no Asians.

Being in the midst of the mall made me think of something that happened in our Buddhist meditation group years ago.  We always ended by standing in a circle holding hands, and saying these words as a chant. 

Praise and blame,
gain and loss,
pleasure and sorrow
come and go like the wind.
To be happy, rest like a great tree
in the midst of them all.

           (the Buddha)

An older woman named Marie, an artist, became a constant member of the group.  After some months, something cued her to understand that the chant meant you stand in the middle of all those winds of change in the relative world.  She laughed and said that she always thought the last line was "in the midst of the mall."  I still love that.  If you are a householder in America, a layperson, it describes the challenge much better than the original.


  1. I have noticed that as my Mom is losing her hearing, what she hears is all based on how she feels... oftentimes all based on fears.
    Maybe this woman is afraid of Malls! They are temples of excess.

  2. Hahaha! Great post! I love the story- and the sentiment.

    (I also love people watching :)

    Thanks- may you be well!

    1. Thanks Renata. I was fascinated by the people in the mall, the stories going on all around us. These malls are not just excess, as Once Was said, they are wretched excess, full of enticements to buy crap. But they can also be seen as giant amusement parks and toy stores. I enjoy them when I go with that attitude.

  3. Minority BIRTHS are lower than white births in the US. Whites are still in the majority (temporarily).

  4. In the midst of the mall! Well, the mall is a microcosm anyway, isn't it?

    1. Yes. And my dear friend Marie had both feet firmly planted in both the relative ("real") and absolute (artistic, spiritual, timeless) worlds. I loved it when she found a big green Coach bag in a thrift store and started carrying it everywhere. It didn't necessarily match any of her garments and scarves. She was a walking work of art, and as kind as anyone I ever knew in a quiet way.