PRACTICE HAS BEEN described by a Tibetan teacher as the wearing out of an old pair of shoes. Wearing the soles thin. Wearing through ego and delusion. You may approach Zen thinking that you are going to become enlightened, become a great teacher and have fantastic powers that people will respect. Doing the practice, you come to realize that you don’t give a damn whether people respect you or not. You really don’t want to be a great teacher. What you want is to be helpful. To be of assistance—a benevolent entity.
Kobutsu, The Engaged Zen Foundation, from Issue 13 of Heron Dance
THE SHERPAS ARE alert for ways in which to be of use, yet are never insistent, far less servile; since they are paid to perform a service, why not do it as well as possible? "Here, sir! I will wash the mud!" "I carry that, sir!" As George Schaller says, "When the going gets rough, they take care of you first." Yet their dignity is unassailable, for the service is rendered for its own sake—it is the task, not the employer that is served. As Buddhists, they know that the doing matters more than the attainment or reward, that to serve in this selfless way is to be free.… The generous and open outlook of the sherpas, a kind of merry defenselessness, is by no means common.…
Peter Matthiessen, from The Snow Leopard
Dear Heron Dancers,
A year ago, I was getting acupuncture when the practitioner asked me, “Have you ever stuck with any spiritual practice?” I answered with a certain familiar guilty panic, “No … but I feel like I am really close to being able to commit to a practice. Maybe I should sign up for your Tai Chi class.” Later, back at the Heron Dance office, I laughed out loud at my response and reminded myself of what I knew to be true, “I am deeply committed to many important practices! To my kids, to Heron Dance, to my partner, to walking through each day with an open heart.” Each of these challenges me every day, humbles me, and teaches me.
When I feel badly about not meditating or not having one particular accepted spiritual practice, a good friend of mine says, “Being Buddhist not important, being Buddha important.”
I rest with this thought and stay open to the possibility of eventually committing to one particular practice, but I no longer feel less than for trying simply to live the practice right in front of me.
In Celebration of the Gift of Life,