Balance: I Don’t Take Any Of This For Granted

Balance: Forget about balance. We are always out of balance. Always in perfect balance.

I sat meditation this morning as I do nearly every morning at about 6:00 a.m. This morning it was quiet, dark and cold. A wonderful way to begin my mornings. I don’t take it for granted, the privilege to begin my day in this way. The privilege to live in a place where I can feel safe. The privilege of having a body and mind, to be able to sit cross legged on a black cushion. I know I won’t always be able to cross my legs. What a pity, impermanence. And how wonderful and mysterious. And I don’t like it, that I won’t always be able to sit, to hug my wife and children, to chop fresh garlic for zucchini soup, to walk to the beach with my friends. I often think of creating a support group called BAC, Buddhist’s Against Change.

It is effortful and more painful, at times, to sit in this way then it was 10 years ago; more difficult than 35 years ago. And so much easier then when I first began my sitting practice, when I was 21 years old. My legs and hips were stiff and inflexible. Sitting every morning I could see and feel my hips opening, a little each day, my knees began lowering toward the ground, until sitting in this cross-legged posture began to feel more comfortable than sitting in a chair. This posture became my home.

I don’t take it for granted, the privilege of being able to follow my breath on this cold and dark December morning. It is pitch black dark this morning. I notice this as I bow toward my cushion, turn clockwise and bow away. This motion, this routine that I have performed innumerable times. Sometimes paying attention, sometimes lost in thought. This morning, I notice and I don’t take it for granted. Like a ballet dancer, my hands raise from my sides and palms come together. I bow from my hips, toward my cushion, turn clockwise and bow again. I notice. I don’t take this dance for granted.

This ritual that was taught to me, passed on from person to person, over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, passed on from warm hand to warm hand. It is unusually dark, black dark, no light. I remember – The street light outside the window of my home is broken. As I notice the absence of light I’m reminded that I called PG & E a month ago to report that it was broken; then called again a week ago to find out when it would be fixed. The second time I called the woman from PG&E said she would resend the request and mark it as “critical.” This was a week ago, I thought. Perhaps I need to call 911 to get their attention, I thought. This dialogue with myself happened in a millisecond, as I sit on my cushion. I’m annoyed, settling, swaying my upper body from side to side, amused at myself. Amused at it all. I don’t take any of this for granted, as I gently bring my attention back to my breath, body, and feelings. Knowing that this won’t always be the case, to experience darkness, to miss the light, to be annoyed, amused about anything, to be able to bring my attention back, again and again.

I glance at my clock on the bookshelf. It says 6:30. Thirty minutes seems to go by in an instant this morning. This isn’t always the case. I begin to slowly move my head, shoulders and upper body from side to side, an ancient routine for transitioning from meditation to entering the world. The words of Shunryu Suzuki float into my mind. “Swaying from side to side is not preparation, not transitioning for anything. This too is meditation.” Where is the line between meditation and not meditation, between paying attention, and not paying attention, the line between amusement and annoyance, the line between birth and death; these few delicious and impossible moments of time we call our lives. Just show up, fully alive. Just appreciate being alive. Just meet yourself, meet each situation, alive, and juicy, and boring. Broken and whole, completely in balance and completely out of balance.

I stand up. Noticing the stiffness in my legs, feet, lower back. Appreciating each creak and grown of this body as “they” say in Zen this “bag of bones.” I turn and bow toward my cushion. I turn clockwise and bow away from my cushion. Bowing to you, to my family, to my friends; bowing to the world. Bowing to the Buddha that is me, the Buddha that is you. Remembering Buddha; letting go of Buddha.

As I bow to my cushion there is a strange sensation under my bare and cold right foot. “What? What is that?”, I ask myself. What is under my foot, lying on my rug? I reach down in the black empty darkness, reach down, and there is an object in my hands. My glasses! The glasses I took off and placed in front of me 30 minutes ago. My beautiful, old dependable pieces of wire and glass that turn the world from fuzziness to sharpness, from out of focus to clarity. I forgot about them. I stepped on them, thoughtlessly. I feel ashamed, forgetful. I smile. Ah, so happy these glasses are flexible, nearly unbreakable. They easily return to their original shape.

In that instant, that moment my glasses become my teacher. Turning fuzziness into clarity, resilient, returning to their original shape. They are not ashamed. “What is your original face before your mother and father are born?” My glasses help me understand this silly and profound Zen question. I place them on my face; this time paying attention. I’m delighted, grateful. I smile. Feelings arise. I bow to my glasses, my shame, my resilience. I notice a tear, perfectly balanced under my left eye. I don’t take any of this for granted, the tear, slowly rolls, gone. The traces of thoughts, bows, darkness, tears, longing, memories, shame, aliveness, black cushions, Buddha, sweet caresses.

I don’t take any of this for granted.