Swimming out past the buoy in the ocean this morning, I saw two soft gray gulls sitting in the water. I would say ‘riding the swells’ but they were so still, it seemed like they were sitting in meditation as the water rose and fell under them. They sat there with no idea of the immensity of ocean beneath or vast sky above, just life in the form of two little feathered beings quietly sitting on the water.
The first time I went over to my Zen teacher Kobun Chino Otagawa’s house, I was struck by his elegant calligraphy mounted over the front porch. He said it meant, “No coming, no going.” I was puzzled – isn’t everything, including ourselves, coming and going, arising and passing away, all the time?
I was silent, perplexed. And he didn’t explain, Zen teachers tend not to explain.
Seeing the seabirds resting on the waves, utterly at ease, I felt moved to awe. I didn’t see them arrive; it seemed they’d been there forever. They sat peacefully, completely themselves, not coming or going, simply present. We, too, ride waves of experience while we sit still, often unaware of the immensity that surrounds us, forgetting that this huge current of life IS us.
Sitting, walking, resting, or busy — it’s such a gift to have a practice that reminds us: we are already here. We belong here, in the big wide sea.
As I swam closer, the young seagulls finally flew away; they vanished. They didn’t go anywhere, there was simply an absence in the water where their presence was before.
Image Credit: T. Goodman