Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Everything is me!me!me! these days, or I am aware of that fact, standing as I am in great uncertainty. I once believed "enlightenment" would mean the erasure of this self. So far it has not, though I can stand aside from my self at times, to listen to someone else who is in a lot more trouble. I do understand that many people are in more trouble than I am right now - people who don't have a way to understand their own bad news.

It gets me thinking of the usefulness of what we Buddhists call The First Noble Truth - the first one of the Buddha's discoveries as he sat under a tree wasting time, absolutely determined to find a way out of the universal suffering of sickness, old age and death. (What a foolish quest that seemed to his father!) As the story comes to us, he realized with simple clarity that human life has to include this suffering. If you are born, you die. First you age, if you are lucky. This is what life is like. In a moment of joy, the kid blowing out candles on the birthday cake, we think, God, one more year past. He's getting so big. The poet Blake called this "joy and sorrow intertwined."

We think there is something wrong with our life when we are stuck on some big uncertainty - will I get the kidney? - or when someone we love is threatened by illness, when we have intractable pain or dis-ability. It's not right, we think. This is not right. He should get to die peacefully, aware of his loved ones, accepting death, not this bad mood.

I was telling Tom how bad I felt for a friend, who believes she shouldn't get old all at once like this, and he said, "She needs to go around and find a mustard seed." He is referring to the story of a women who came crying to the Buddha that her beloved child had died. He told her to begin knocking on doors in the village asking for a mustard seed from a house in which no death has ever occurred. (An expanded version of the story is here.) It means that we expand our awareness out of our own little pond of suffering to realize that we are in fact borne along on a great river like fallen leaves, all on the same river.

If uncertainty and dissatisfaction are really part of everyone's life, then we can think about bearing with that, accepting it, instead of insisting that this is not what I dreamed of, not what I want.

As faithful readers know, I am waiting to see whether Laura is accepted as a living donor to give me a kidney. I am unlikely to hear anything today. How to live today? Hoping, yearning, believing there is some way to exert my Will? I could do that. I have a mudra for intention, no harm in trying it. I could pray really hard. I could just go have breakfast and check on the laundry. That seems like a good idea.
image: a white flower in the shade in my back yard that I have not identified. Sometimes it has three petals, sometimes four.


  1. Enjoyed reading this post and yesterday's as well.

    I think the plant is chameleon plant. Leaf color will vary depending on the light.
    Loves shade though.

  2. Thank you. Naming the plant gives us a little less uncertainty about something. And yes, it is in pretty deep shade.