On one of the most contemplative days, it was not the image of the Buddha that made me feel most at peace…
It was the spider in his ear. It was the damselfly in his hand.
It’s spring, and they were taking refuge. There was gale force wind and snow was falling sporadically. They were focusing. Holding on for dear life.
There is this wonderful place in Montana called The Garden of 1,000 Buddhas, and lately it’s been evoking the most important and contemplative of thoughts.
I walk around the entire garden, sometimes a few times, and look at each Buddha. Sometimes there are small pieces broken off from the weather, and because I’ve walked past them many times, I notice these things.
Usually and most often, I meditate on my own—on long runs or sojourns in prairies, meadows or foothills. I often gain inner peace by inhabiting some void that seems empty; it could be an open field of sage at the base of a timbered mountain. It could be an outcropping next to a stream. It could be walking along the knife-edge of a ridge line for miles. Most often, it’s sitting on a cow gate on a dirt road with my Griffon puppy. But either way, these locations are all so…exposed. The garden is exposed, but there is no void. There is only form surrounded by beauty. It’s a refuge.
But how often do we truly take refuge?
I know that I am the type of person who wears her heart on her sleeve. I love people to the point of self-neglect. That’s okay.
Enter the spider in the Buddha’s ear. The Buddha, still contemplative, serene, calm, and loving, offers refuge, yet stays still…strong. He offers safety and love—compassion—yet stays true to his own intention and his own self.
Don’t ever compromise yourself or who you are or what you believe in for someone else. Give love and compassion to them, but not at the expense of yourself. You can redeem all the evil in the world with your own intention.
That’s Sanskrit for drishti, focused gaze, development of concentrated intention. It’s a word many of us have heard in yoga practice. But what does it mean outside the yoga studio?
To me, it means that we take one step at a time and with each movement, we intend on expressing love, purity, passion, emotion or goodwill. Sometimes these things interfere with one another, and that is what leads to heartbreak, stress or failure. That’s okay. Just concentrate.
I’ve always been in love with Joseph Campbell’s hero cycle—the monomyth. Though there are many variations of it, the life of Buddha [or Jesus] is one very good example of it. And it informs my interpretation of nearly everything that I read. I always try and figure out how characters—as small or insignificant as they may be—can have heroic qualities…how a spider in a Buddha’s ear in a snow flurry could be a hero. He [or she] is a hero. Here’s why:
“Although he applies himself to the five sense-qualities, –
To form and sound, and likewise smell, and taste, and touch, –
When free from the vehicle of Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, the joyous
Should, a hero, be wisely known as being constantly concentrated.”
~ The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, Conze translation
Heroism is the ability to concentrate, to focus on whatever journey you are on in everything you do. As hard as things may get—as cold as it can be or as hard as the wind can blow—there is always a place to take refuge. It’s in your own concentration—in exposing our intention, our thoughts, and speaking our minds. This is where we create refuges. One of the paradigmatic purposes of meditation is to create a space in your own mind to grow within.
You become a spider in your own head.
Jenna Penielle Lyons was born in Portales, New Mexico among sage and sand. Raised in Pocatello, Idaho among the black rock and juniper, she grew up wandering in cowboy boots, running, riding bikes, skiing, climbing, painting, and studying classical ballet. She is a scholar of English Literature, a poet, painter, photographer, musician, and outdoorswoman. She winters in Missoula and spends the summer working for Snake River Hotshots. She is a lover of mountain bluebirds & elephants, tea & good coffee, Carl Jung, Salvador Dali, skiing, climbing in the desert, yoga, harp music, and sagebrush. Her favorite foods are borscht and any combination of chocolate and cayenne pepper. Check out her work and follow her adventures at http://www.thelyonsroarliterature.wordpress.com.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel