I am sitting near my mother-in-law and wife in the living area of my mother-in-law’s apartment in Texas. Nothing special is happening, nothing at all. We are just sitting, reading, having thoughts, occasionally speaking, and finishing breakfast.
The cat inside is napping. The stray cat on the porch is too. They are masters of contemplation, awakened ones, neither fretting over the past or worrying about the future. Both are living in freedom, and for a moment I had a glimpse of that incredible freedom, a direct experience of: “this moment is enough.”
The Buddha, or awakened one, calls us to “cross over to the other shore” of freedom from the clinging and grasping mind and its expectations for things to be different than they are right now. A shorthand reminder is to awaken to “just this,” embracing just this moment as it is without any wanting of things to be different.
Jesus, an awakened one, calls us to the same in his famous “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matthew 6:25-34), saying “Be not anxious for your life, what you shall eat or drink, nor for your body what you shall wear…Behold the birds of the heaven…your heavenly father feeds them…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil or spin…But seek first his kingdom….”
These master contemplatives want to help us “cross over” to the kingdom now, and they both prescribe the path: “Let go of being anxious, clinging to how you want things to be, and be like the lilies of the field, embracing what is right now.” This is radical trust–faithing–experiencing Enough right now, (not when things are more like I think they should be).
Yesterday I was riding the Flixbus from New Orleans to Houston to be with the family. I took the seat I had reserved on the front row. When the driver got back on the bus she told me I couldn’t sit there. I explained that I had paid the extra $8 for that seat. She said there are no reserved seats, defying the company policy, and insisted I move to the back. I moved. (It turned out she had an assistant she wanted to sit in my seat and placed her own things on the remaining three front seats).
My mind replayed the scene repeatedly as the trip began. This was not a grave injustice, and I knew it. But the mind kept attaching to the tiny injustice of paying for a seat where I could stretch out my long legs and then being denied the seat I paid for. It was really no big deal, but my attachment to the way I had wanted things to go was still strong.
It took some time for me to really notice the reality of the moment. Sitting next to me was a young black woman with a beautiful baby boy with shining eyes and a delicious smile. He was probably more than six months old based on his teeth.
Once I started tuning in to what was, and away from what was not, I made little finger movements toward the boy’s face. He would delight in the game and his smile became little laughs. We played the game off and on over the six and a half hours of the trip. The moment was enough.
I was able to turn to the side and stretch my legs as needed. I rested with my neck pillow. I read a little. I ate a little. I got out and stretched my back at our stops along the way. I gradually let go of the “grave” injustice, as much as my mind could, and had some moments of being one of those “lilies of the field.”
In these times of grave distress, when our minds exhaust us with our clinging to the way we want things to be, and our frustrations with the way they are, I think we could all use some glimpses of true freedom, crossing over into the kingdom of Presence by embracing what is.
From that kingdom of freedom, perhaps divine wisdom will arise to show us how to make the world better, instead of making things worse with our perpetual animosity. The Buddha and Jesus both called us to the Way, and told us how to walk on it. Let’s start now!