I’ve been contemplating those times when a word or a gift or just a gesture reaches through the thin veil of the constructed self to a deeper level. Times when one’s heart dances and one’s feet skip forwards into life with renewed confidence. Here are just a few such encounters that have surfaced into memory as I prepare a talk for Wesak on the theme of Giving and Receiving.
An early memory of a special gift was watching my Aunt Paddy spitting in her mascara and then applying the black goo to her eyelashes. It was the 1950’s. She brought glamour and a wider world into my country girl’s life. Later when I’d reached my teens she encouraged me to write, telling me I had a knack for descriptive writing.
In Singapore 1969, standing at a lightbox in Kodak’s main processing plant. I was viewing slides taken during my overland trip from England. An Australian photographer gazes over my shoulder and we strike up a conversation. Parting he said, “Look me up in Sydney, there may be a job for you”. And there was. (In that simple exchange I got what I wanted, recognition as a photographer, and then I could move on).
Twelve years later, now as a novice monk. I’m walking on the cloister at Shasta Abbey. Miserable! Female senior passes and silently slipped me a few squares of English Bournville chocolate from her robe pocket. Instantly I’m lifted, not so much from the chocolate but from the message it carried. Years later and I’m with the same monk. She is suffering. I say out of nowhere, “You know, if there wasn’t ‘letting go’, life would be hell wouldn’t it”! I just remember her laughing heartily in response.
I am sitting listening to one of our lay ministers giving meditation instruction to a room full of people. He is inspiring. The teaching is direct clear and kind. I’m moved to tears. Hearing this one person speak so eloquently brought home to me the jewel that is the lay sangha. A realization of what they have to offer, and what they offer me.
So, back to getting my thoughts organized for that talk.