Friday, December 21, 2007
Last night I went to see Sharon Salzberg speak at the Zendo. She’s a well-known longtime Buddhist practitioner who’s written many books, and she’s an eloquent, composed speaker - it was so interesting to hear her put thoughts together and concisely summarize questions from the audience.
She spoke about equanimity, or balance, and one of the things she said that stuck with me is, “The ability to start again is not to be sneezed at.” Each time we stray in life or practice, whether it’s getting lost in thoughts while meditating or something larger, we can always start again. We find our breath again. In fact, as Salzberg said, starting anew is the only honest response to the ever-changing world.
My practice seems to resemble the orbit of Pluto. You know how Pluto follows an elliptical orbit around the sun, passing relatively close and then spinning out into the deep reaches of space before circling back? Sometimes I feel close to my practice, seem to inhabit it deeply for weeks at a time. And sometimes it feels almost alien to me - I stop sitting and get busy and caught up in life - and then I miss it and begin circling back.
Since the end of October, just before I went to Italy, my practice has seemed remote. I’ve been to the Zendo several times since then, but it’s been hard for me to really inhabit the sitting, to be really present. Traveling, the holidays, some major changes in my office, a busier social schedule - all have given me reason to feel scattered, and have carried me away.
I’m not going to the year-end sesshin, either. Frankly, I’m tired, and it just seems too far away, too difficult and too expensive. Maybe I’m wimping out, but I plan to chill and retreat into my own personal quiet for a while. I hope to do that after Christmas - sit daily, here at home, and once again come back toward the warmth of the sun from starry black space.
(Photo: Lost mitten, SoHo, Dec. 2007)