A koan: Taking the form of Guanyin, find shelter for the homeless person.
There seems to be a connection between my happiness and how I hold the world. Often it seems as though the task in meditation is just to welcome visitors: the sound of my cats facing off or my partner emptying the dishwasher, the smell of a full litter box, the feeling of back pain or drowsiness or visions of the day to come. This morning, our foster kitten crawled into my hands while I meditated and began to purr loudly. It seems that how I hold things is how the universe will hold me.
A friend of mine who meditates recently told me a story of a friend of hers who meditates. He has young children and, trying to get some good meditation done, trained the whole family to be very silent around the house during his daily meditation sessions. Failure to comply often earned stern scoldings. At some point, he decided to teach his oldest child to meditate, but while he was instructing him for the first time, he noticed the child was fidgeting and looking very uncomfortable. “What’s the matter?” he asked. The child hesitated for a moment, then explained that since his father always seemed so unhappy about meditation, it must be a very difficult and terrible thing.
Aside from our regular Monday night koan group, I offer another meditation group every week in the Charlottesville community. This week, one person showed up: a young woman with a quick mouth and an intense stare who is determined to get the world before it gets her. She shines with a bright intelligence and it is clear that somewhere safely behind the ramparts, there beats a vivid, crimson heart. “So is it just gonna to be you and me? Cause I said I’d come to this, but I really don’t wanna be in here with the rest of these assholes that live around here. It’s the same drama, same bullshit, they’ll just move it in here.”
She then proceeded to talk nonstop, rolling out a disjointed, sensational tale of homelessness, incarcerated partners, partner abuse, drug abuse, brain damage, property damage, gang violence, violent love, love triangles, female fist fights, betrayal, and raising other people’s children.
Often it seems as though the task in meditation is just to welcome visitors.
After about 25 minutes, she stopped abruptly and looked at her watch.
“Well, are we done?” I said.
“Can we be?”
She thanked me and apologized for not humoring me with “the meditation thing.” I thanked her for not humoring me with “the meditation thing” and told her that she was welcome anytime.
There seems to be a connection between my happiness and how I hold the world. To refuse what is being offered in any given moment is to make the entire universe homeless. To care for what shows up at our doorstep is to come in from the cold.
Ringing the doorbell:
- Who is someone in your life that you just can’t accept? What is a part of you that you just can’t accept?
- When or where do you feel like you don’t belong? When do you feel most at home?
- Was there ever a time when you left what is safe and familiar on purpose? Why? And what was that like?