Monday, November 16, 2009


My meditation instructor at the temple has mentioned, on several occasions, the three pillars of Buddhism. But they are somewhat different from the three pillars in the Japanese Zen tradition. This temple practices Korean Zen Buddhism, and so their take on it seems to be a bit different.

The way she describes the three pillars are: 1) compassion, 2) peace of mind, and 3) happiness.

I totally get the first two. I have been altered through the compassion of others, offered compassion to loved ones and strangers, and I am profoundly sure of its necessity and purpose in this journey we so simply call life.

As for peace of mind... while I may not always have it, I can at least say I have experienced it periodically - and I'm increasing my ability to be present and maintain a state of peace through meditation and mindful practice.

Where I seem to get stuck (still) on most days is happiness. Happy. Happiness. Joy. Contentment. They are words I attach to fleeting moments and a broad brush-stroked sense of the other side or what other people have.

Which is not in the least bit enlightened, peaceful, or even compassionate. Sometimes I feel there is a piece of me that holds onto my heart and squeezes it tight so it can only feel so much. As if too much of a good thing might somehow lead to disaster or brokenness or a safety-net-less world.

A weight. A stone. A rope. A gremlin. A cloud. Plenty of metaphors and none quite right. But perhaps you get a sense of what I'm attempting to describe.

My un-happiness feels like a thing, carried along through my days and hoisted - unnaturally - through each experience... marring a potentially unfiltered sense of life with blurry, hazy, soupy disconnection.

I have noticed lately I am quite able to be peaceful most of the time. I am able to be calm, to circumvent some of my pre-worry and be present - truly present - in a moment of time with others I love. I am able to speak and act compassionately, to use care with my words and hands and emotions.

And sometimes... in little, sparkling moments, I have very recently begun to notice a sense of happy. A state of joy. Quick. Surprising. Bubbling and gleeful. I feel it warm and full and wonderful in my entire being and think: Oh... this is it. This is it!

I can tell, at this point along my path, my greatest lesson is going to be one of happiness. I notice more clearly the joy and ease in others and have begun to replace envy and longing with admiration and curious, close study.

It is an expedition... exciting and alluring. This shift from set-upon to setting off feels like a good next step. This sense of alert, watchful observation rather than defeated disassociation - a more active, and ultimately "happy" stance.

May you feel joy today. Strong, unflinching, soaring, and wonderful.

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