Photography as Meditation: The Friday Flower. A new series. Sometimes just photos. Sometimes with writing. Sometimes on Fridays.
I had another post almost ready to go this morning, just a few tweaks needed before hitting the publish button. But after a meltdown that’s been building for days, I looked at what I’d written and it seemed too distant and controlled compared to the raw state I’m in. I offer this to you instead and promise, some day, to learn brevity.
I know without question we all possess an inner light. Our true nature is perpetually pure and unstained. But we also have thoughts, desires, emotions, egos that mask our pristine nature. Sometimes we go searching for our light, but it’s hidden behind heavy clouds and storms.
I’ve been slogging my way through weeks with my inner light almost completely obscured. I’m depleted. I’m scattered and distracted. I can’t focus my attention for any period of time. I can’t meditate. I can’t hold my center.
My acupuncturist understands and can explain all of this to me. She takes my pulse, looks at my tongue and tells me precisely why I’m experiencing this state.
That used to make me feel better. Ah, I’m not the least disciplined person on the face of the earth. Oh, this exhaustion is real and it’s not about pushing harder. Thank you, I’m not going crazy.
But it’s been too long and explanations are not helping me at all.
I believe in the absolute preciousness of this life. And every night I go to bed heartbroken and dissatisfied with myself. Another day has gone by, has been used but not used well. I am wasting my rare and precious life in meaningless distractions. All the explanations in the world can’t help me feel better about that.
I reach for the outer light that pulls me forward, the Bodhisattva path. Love and compassion so strong that one vows to free all beings from suffering. Something in my heart catches, then falls. I’ve been guiltily avoiding my meditation table. I’m not even managing the reading that fills my heart. I am failing at this, too.
All of this pours out in an unexpected call with a dear friend, Marybeth. May everyone have a Marybeth. I have never known anyone who could hold space with such love. She can find (and speak of!) the magnificence in every being. I am in awe of her.
Marybeth listens. She waits. And then she says “You’re still my role model.”
“Role model for what?” I challenge her. I expect her to come up with something that is really Marybeth in disguise. But she says…
“Grace. You carry a grace through everything you do and it is stunning.”
Because I’m just this close to self-hatred there’s no room for humility. I will own this because it’s the only thing that will save me from drowning right now.
I tell her the one thing I’ve been doing well is recognizing how completely painful this is, knowing how much others struggle, and asking to take it away from them and carry it all on myself. It’s the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, Taking and Sending. That is the grace she is seeing.
“It’s enough,” I say. “It’s everything,” she says.
It’s become so internalized through years of meditation that I don’t think about it. It’s my nearly automatic response to suffering. What continues to deepen over time is the conviction in my heart as I practice.
“I forgot. I forgot I was doing it,” I say through tears.
In that moment, outer and inner light appear in my heart. They merge. They are one and the same in essence. It’s only worldly confusion that keeps them separate. That same confusion is the cause of suffering.
May all beings be free from suffering!