It stands across the street from me, over a wooden fence. It provides home to a community of crows and it seems to be the timeless, motionless being in our midst. It listens to the musings of a community of nurses from Mercy Hospital who smoke under its shade. It fills my window with leaves and it is constantly changing. We don't notice it most of the time... But this time of year, that change becomes vivid, like fire.
Imagine that you are sitting with your parents next to you, your family, your friends and loved ones. Imagine them all sitting around you. And start to contemplate how they suffer. Start to see, vividly, the birth, aging, sickness, death. The continual change... See how this process repeats and repeats.
You may be reading this and thinking, what a miserable thing to do... contemplating how your loved ones suffer? But this is the thing... it's like looking at that tree. The reality of the tree. The green glow moves away and the leaves fall. And this is happening all around us, all the time. With our bodies, our loved ones, our life. A continual cycle of change. What are we to do with this? It's heartbreaking...
But when we bring our mind down to our heart in meditation, and look at this scene, really deeply look, a wish begins to arise. A wish to release them from their pain. May they find peace. I wish I could help them be free from their suffering.
From this thought, it's like that dawn sun appearing over the horizon . Our heart shifts and compassion comes streaming in. It's been there all along actually, it's just been obscured by the clouds in our thoughts, the everyday worries. Contemplating the suffering of others awakens it, and when we feel its warmth in our heart, we train in holding that vast mind.
It's an extraordinary wish, that doesn't come naturally all the time. So we sit and create it, and cultivate it, and hold it. And it's a bit like growing our own sun. An inner sun... one that will take us out of this cyclic existence. One that will nourish others.
When I finished the meditation, I opened up my email and there was a blog post waiting for me from a friend in Shanghai who has just lost her father, and her close friend in the matter of months. It made me want to reach out through the ether and hug her.
It also made me want to write this... About the nun and the light and the tree. And the leaves that fall in the dawn light. It made me want to capture that feeling, that image, and send it back out into space. Maybe someone out there will be looking out of their window, and feel the prayer being sent out.
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Photo credits: Top: Courtesy, Jim from Lexington, KY, USA, Wiki Commons; Below, The Buddhist Prayer Wheel,
Mlle Daria, Wiki Commons