Having been traveling back and forth across an ocean and continents in past weeks, I’ve had a good opportunity to expand my direct experience of the world beyond my usual parameters. As ever, all that I needed to do was pay attention to and open to whatever was before me, wherever I found myself. Because I was not in my familiar surroundings, however, that seed practice bore unfamiliar fruit.
I was struck by everything from the airplane that carried me from Paris to New York, surprisingly spacious and living up to its airline’s name, « Open Skies, » to the near-hysteria sweeping America about a feared flu epidemic. I noticed the unfathomable diversity in airports, supermarkets, roads, cars, books, magazines, newspapers, fruit and vegetables, fish, bread, traffic signs, rules, laws, shoes, clothing, laughter, anger, courtesy, greetings, broadcast news, post offices, doctor’s offices, restaurant menus and service, currencies, advertisements, relations to space and time… And yet, amid the myriad changing forms, across borders, beyond local languages, styles and tastes, there remained what I can’t name, what I know by not knowing, what is shared, what is unseen, unspoken, unborn, undying… I must use the three dots because, as the American Zen teacher Eve Marko wrote recently, I don’t know any beginning without an end, and I’d add that I don’t know any end without a beginning…
And so. Now here I am. Home again, the clock advancing, waiting late in a gray afternoon for a heavy snowfall we’ve been told is on its way.
The headlines tell of chaos, violence, uncertainty, fear, the three enduring « fires » of greed, anger, ignorance/delusion. Looks like hard times everywhere we turn. How do I, do we, face that, I wonder? For me, the « how » is not a solution, it is a way: May we go forth not with denial, fear, rejection, violence, but with patience and an open, loving heart.