It’s a brilliantly cold day here today. Up to a whopping 12 degrees with a wind chill of 7. The sky is bright blue with hints of cloud spread around the edges, jet trails, mare’s tails, dry brush strokes of white that striate the blue. It’s still technically morning, a few minutes to noon as I write this. Morning, noon, night, hour, minute, month, year, all these abstract concepts that we lay upon our experience to try to rein it in, keep it in our “control.” It is, of course, New Year’s eve, the last day of this construct known as 2014.
And even though it is a construct, a concept, it’s useful in its way. We are not cut loose in timelessness, merged with the continuum of time and space. We are here, somewhere, in these bodies that, like their sisters the plants, turn daily toward the sun for guidance, for nourishment, and then toward the dark for rest. And the days come and go and come and go, as the moments come and go and come and go, each one a realization: I am here. I am this. I am.
I am in a place of deeper translucence these days, a place of abiding joy, which has no opposite. I was thinking earlier on my drive back from town, from yoga, coffee, groceries, about an article I read once about “The Happiest Man Alive.” It was about a Buddhist monk, a Frenchman I think, who had spent the last twenty or so years of his life meditating about 20 minutes every day. I remember envying him his happiness and at the same time considering the differences between living in the robe in a monastery and living in the myriad relationships of the wider world. Today, the gap has all but disappeared. Every life has its heavy lifting, even in the monastery.
I heard a story once from a Buddhist teacher of mine, who had herself, spent a few decades in the Thai Forest tradition. It was about a monk in her order, a former US Marine, who had found his way from a tough youth to the military, and from the military to the war Southeast Asia, and from the war to the monastery. There was in the order another monk who had a habit of sitting too close to the former Marine, usurping his space. One day, at the end of his tether, the Marine called out the other monk–let’s take it outside, so to speak. As they squared off in anger, the Marine monk suddenly stopped and looking at his raised fists dropped them into a namaskar mudra and a bow. The monks embraced and went back to their meal.
It’s a good story, and one that speaks volumes about the challenges of being in one of these “meat suits,” this super sensitive bodymind with its millions of neurons and nerves firing non-stop day in and day out. It’s about awareness and energy, about the need to embody what arises, to let it have its say and at the same time leaning into the way our own emotions, our anger, say, is ours alone, and the way what we encounter moment by moment is our teacher.
My teacher, Allan Morelock, says that equanimity is this realization. That when we are in this moment with complete awareness, whatever the moment contains, whether pain or pleasure, that awareness is equanimity, and equanimity is joy, which has no opposite. The mirror does not, as in the fairy tale, tell you whether you are beautiful or not. It only reflects what is presented to it. Where our conditioned experience meets the mirror, there can be a huge distance between subject and object. Allan says they are one. You are only as beautiful as you feel. Coming to this truth requires us to relax into all the old stories, all the old patterns, resting in their deep discomfort. After years of self judgment, denial, criticism, anger, bitterness, if we can rest in the truth of our woundedness, our vulnerability, then we can rest in our beauty, our innocence.
Wherever you are today, in balmy warmth or frigid cold, whether in pain or in ease, in community or in solitude, may you gaze into the mirror of your heart and find the truth of your beauty. May you have joy in this moment and all the moments to come.