Today is a good day. I move effortlessly between morning yoga, my computer work, feeding our rabbits some tasty raspberry leaves, reading about God and now writing this piece. I feel spacious and calm, and the sun is shining outside and inside.
This weekend was not so good. I spent time with people who trigger some of the entrenched habit patterns that throw me into deep pain and anxiety. I was tossed up and down like a small boat in a storm, and the next morning I felt depleted, depressed and emotionally hung over.
In William Stafford’s poem, ‘The Way It Is’, he speaks of a thread you follow – one that is difficult for others to see. He says that while you hold it, ‘you can’t get lost’. It’s easier to see today as an example of me holding onto my thread, and of doing the things I should have been doing, but I was also holding onto my thread during my difficult weekend.
Even when I wanted to run away, I stayed put and did my best. I noticed some new things about the people who triggered me, which helped me to feel compassion for them. I noticed some new things about my own process. I also did some small things differently – speaking up when I would have stayed quiet, and looking after myself when I would have abandoned myself.
For me, the meaning of life is holding onto this thread, and letting it guide me through the dark woods, thick with thorny wild roses. I know I’m holding onto the thread when I act from a wisdom that is bigger than me, and I feel the compassion of the Buddhas flowing through me. I know I’m holding on when I can put my small view of the world aside and trust that there is a much larger, benign process unfolding around me. I rest in this knowledge, and I find refuge.
As a Pureland Buddhist priest I primarily take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I also absorb same the spirit of great wisdom and love from all my favourite sources – the teachings of Jesus, Rumi, the 12 step programmes, poetry, my rabbit’s delicate lips as they take the sweet leaves from my fingers…
The meaning of life is not that we transform ourselves to such an extent that we never experience bad weekends, or that we stop making terrible mistakes. I wish it were! The meaning of life is that we meet life’s challenges, whatever they are, with as much courage as we can. We can find this courage not by ‘trying harder’ or working it all out, but by acknowledging our fallibility, and turning to a great source of light for sustenance and guidance.
It doesn’t matter what name we use for this light, or even if we feel certain that it’s there. We lean back into it, and we keep on following our thread. We pass on whatever we’ve received, and we relish the pleasure of giving. We say sorry when we inevitably get things wrong. We bury our noses in the frothy roses, and we drink in their scent. Isn’t it wonderful?
~Rev. Satyavani Robyn is a Pureland Buddhist priest with Amida Shu, and runs a temple in the UK with her husband. She works as a psychotherapist and has written novels and other books. She enjoys watching goldfinches on the bird feeder, eating words, getting things done and vegan cake.
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