I Am Awake
It is said that soon after his enlightenment, the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked,
My friend, what are you?
Are you a celestial being or a god?
said the Buddha
Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?
again the Buddha answered
Are you a man?
Well, my friend, then what are you?
the Buddha replied
I am awake
What does it mean to be fully awake?
According to Josh Bartok (www.lionsroar.com, April, 2017), many people search for enlightenment and instead, find awakening. Awakening is the “possibility of truly entrusting, a steadily growing capacity for enacting verified faith in the dharma, a practice of awakening to the enoughness of this one thing that is me-and-the-universe.”
I was reminded of this definition the other day when Jim and I were relaxing on our deck. It was around 5 pm and we were enjoying our second glass of wine. The omnipresent ocean breeze was cooling off the first truly “hot” day of spring, and the gulls were dive-bombing the channel for their dinner. Suddenly, Jim and I simultaneously caught a movement on the bulkhead below us. An Eastern Snapping Turtle was slowly making her way past our house. True to my nature, I immediately grabbed my phone to take a picture and then to google this dinosaur-like creature. But, Jim, true to his nature, stopped me to say, “Stop and just enjoy the experience.”
Why do we so often interrupt the present moment to take photos, play video games, or google something? Why isn’t the present moment enough? I’ve spent a lifetime being goal-oriented and achievement-driven. It’s hard to instead, train my mind to focus on each present opportunity for mindfulness. Yet, the reward is both peace and happiness. Isn’t that what most of us are really searching for and find so elusive?
So, I heeded Jim’s admonishment and put the phone back on the deck table. For the next fifteen minutes, we watched the turtle as she walked, rested, observed her surroundings, and finally as she dropped into the water below the bulkhead. You can learn a lot about mindfulness from a turtle!
The Fundamental Awakening
In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, there are many different types of awakening. In the most fundamental of awakenings, we recognize cause and effect and begin to see how our past actions have caused different kinds of suffering. We see how our ‘clinging’ to attitudes and behaviors does not lead to happiness. A deep resolution forms to behave differently. Ayya Tathaaloka (2017) likens this new awakening to “the bud of a lotus breathing muddy water to touch air and sunshine.” Once in that light, we, like the lotus, discover joyous new ways to grow and be happy in our lives.
Okay, this is great but I still wanted to find out more about snapping turtles! For example, did you know that new genetic research shows that turtles are more closely related to crocodiles and dinosaurs than to lizards and snakes? Or, that snapping turtles seem to be evolving toward greater compatibility with salt water than in the past? This answered my burning question as to why our turtle visitor readily jumped into the ocean water channel behind our home.
I am relieved to know that being spiritually awake doesn’t mean discarding all of the things we enjoy! After our visiting turtle disappeared into the water, I picked up the phone once again and googled “Snapping Turtle.” Jim just smiled!
In future posts I will talk more about awakening but I will close this post with one thought: In my journey into mindful retirement, I am finding that I notice much more of the beauty and complexity of the world around me than I ever have before. This includes the earth, sky, animals, plants, and all their interactions. It’s almost as if I have awakened to a new world!
Ode to Being: A Poem
Now, I am…always
What has been, what is and what will be arise and pass away in I am
Total bliss is in that knowing
Before time and matter and the unfolding of events there was I am
I am the timeless Tao
Spacious, timeless, unborn, deathless
The one life of the universe unfolds within me
Formless, unknowable, unmoved, unchanging, ever present
Full to the brim with love and vibrant joy
I am the life the truth and the Tao
Radiant, limitless, totally whole
I am underneath every thought, beyond every emotion and before every sense perception
I am here
I am now
Life shimmers exquisitely in a sacred dance in my vision
I see my reflection in every leaf, every mountain, every star
My many reflections evoke in me incredible deep love
Love pours forth from my depths
Unfathomable love and peace
Immense love and peace
Sacred love and peace
Desire washed away
So great is the force of this great, radical love and peace
Everything is fresh and new
Everything moving and yet so still
I am that stillness
All states of mind arise in me, higher and lower, ignorant and enlightened
I don’t elevate or reject any state
Personalities arise and constantly change in me
They don’t require perfecting
Perfection and imperfection come and go in me
I am needs no perfecting and allows everything
There is nothing to attain
I am whole
Total bliss is in that knowing