Sometimes dharma teachings come in unexpected ways. Maybe often.
Upon my arrival to travel and teach in Europe with Jack, I had a bicycle accident and smashed my left elbow into pieces. It was a big disappointment. I’d longed to swim in the Zurichsee, a beautiful lake; the sparkling water was irresistible… So, after seeing the doctor, I asked Jack to wrap the dangling arm against my body so I could go for a leisurely one-armed swim in the cool, clear water before surgery the next day. I will always savor the memory of that languid, sunlit swim!
I recovered for a couple days while Jack taught, then we took a train to Paris. Our visit to this beautiful city with her art, sidewalk cafes, strolling along narrow cobblestone streets to the river Seine, has unfolded with my arm in a sling. Even with the pain, being here has still been completely delightful. The clear distinction that we make between pain and the suffering of emotional reactions to it, whether disappointment, expectations, blame/shame, or regrets, has never been clearer to me.
For while there’s been plenty of pain, I’m not suffering. In fact, this has been a happy, loving time in spite of the pain and not being able to teach the way I’d planned. What is our practice for, after all? We practice to learn how to calmly abide with what’s simply so.
“If you put a spoon of salt in a cup of water, the water tastes salty. If you put a spoon of salt in a vast lake, the water remands pure and clear. You can make your mind like a lake or a sky.” — The Buddha
One of the beauties of practicing the dharma is that it gives us a vast perspective on life. We have a sure and accessible way to hold both our pain and our happiness in the great peaceful heart of a Buddha.
Image Credit: T. Goodman