Saturday, October 17, 2009


Woke at 3:30 this morning. Padded down to the landing, and looked out. The clouds were clearing. Orion climbing up; Sirius trotting at his heels.

Weary, weary, weary, but no sleep in me. In the massage room, I looked at the wicker trunk and shopping bags of books that Martha put there temporarily a few weeks ago. It was time for me to accept that I didn't know whether these things were more or less temporary than me, so I moved my zabuton and zafu out of the corner, and pushed them into it. Then I set my shrine up, which I took down temporarily, months ago, and had never put back up. This involved a fair amount of shifting and sorting to get everything off the top of my dresser that had accumulated there: the two volumes of the Trigger Point Manual, my leftover brochures, Fiona Robyn's book The Letters, Stephen Dunn's Poems. Then I got the candlestick and the offering bowls out, cleaned them in a cursory fashion. The mala Tori got me in Japan. The pictures of Sarah and Michael. The little battered wooden Buddha.

Where was the block of wood, covered with blue brocade, that made a higher place for the buddha? The old mirror covered with blue silk for a backdrop? No idea. I searched the room, its closet, the basement: no luck. Martha would no doubt know, but she was asleep. Anyway. The important thing was to have a shrine and to sit.

But it was clearly wrong. The little wooden buddha sitting disconsolate, dwarfed by the candlestick, loomed over by Sarah's picture. I couldn't sit in front of that. Well. Just temporarily. The box for the shoes I bought recently was there on the floor. I set it there and set the buddha on top. Filled the offering bowls. Lit the candle. Stiffly made my three prostrations, said my prayers, and meditated. The shadow of the the buddha large on the wall behind, its ears hanging low. It made me laugh, the buddha on the shoebox: it was such a perfect emblem of my rickety slapdash meditation practice.

Of course it's all temporary, all makeshift. I thought of Buddha Shakyamuni, all those years ago, dropping into the pond of humanity, and this tiny ripple from his life rocking the reeds, two and half thousand years later. He would have enjoyed the humor of this.

I said the sealing prayer. "By this virtue may I quickly realize Mahamudra, and establish all beings in this state." My lips twitched at the word "virtue," as they often do. It's not very often that I say that prayer without a strong sense of its irony. ("Realize enlightenment by this virtue? Good luck, man!")

Empty the offering bowls, pour the water out beside the back porch, stand a moment under the still-dark sky and breathe. Then back to blow out the candle. Darkness falls on the buddha, and on the shoebox. Morning is still a long way away.

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