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.
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.