People tell me often, “I have no time.”, and I believe them but not the reasons they give me. Having no time is contrived, perhaps unintentionally, but twenty-four hours a day really is enough. Having no time is what happens to us when we allow the dominant culture to have us, when we have lost our intuitive knowledge of life, and trapped in a life for ourselves and our family of “no choice”, which we created.
There is a Zen saying that goes, “If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.” or to just sit, to listen, to eat right, to talk to your children, to rest, and all the other things you “don’t have time for”. When you live among the natural world as I do here in the Pinelands, it becomes your teacher, ever reminding you about the true meaning of a life fully lived. One of the lessons is that we are called to face our lives “proactively”. I am always surprised and in awe of how the deer face, every day, the growing population of cars and humans. They find a way, with the exception of the occasional road kill. They make it work. Never losing a beat. It is also clear that everything in the natural world “lives intentionally”. Active in the cycle of life, not just reactive. I often say that most people’s daily living can be compared to the life of a firemen. Just going around putting out fires, reacting to one crises after another. Life is meant to be lived deliberately. The very notion “I have to.” points to the uncomfortable fact that most people’s lives are not their own. They are just following a script, given to us first by the dominant culture of our time, and second reinforced by our conditioning, cross-purpose identities, and our complacency.
Yesterday much to my surprise the snow fell. I do not remember the last time. It struck me so deeply along with what followed that I am here at 4:00 AM writing.
Before soon my four-year old daughter and I immersed ourselves in its beauty and ran outside to play. It was white everywhere. The Pinelands was a Christmas Card, my only regret was that my IPhone’s battery died and I could not photograph more of it but, I got Katie making snow angels.
There is never a moment, even in those moments when there is a parent-child standoff, that I am not amazed and inspired, humbled and become the student, in the presence of her “view of the world”. Snow or no snow she finds beauty and wonder in a small stone or an orange-colored leaf. I have yet to teach her anything about Buddhism or Zen except for the few explanations when she follows me into the Zendo, and yet it is not a rare occasion to hear her, like yesterday, say, “We need to hurry Daddy and save the Buddha’s before Buddha-land ends.” The snow had fallen so much by then that some of the statues on the property were already buried. We proceeded down the Peace Trail, she running, calling me to follow, and creating a fairytale like story good enough for the Disney Junior channel. From the statue of Buddha where she not only cleared the snow off him, but then with her hands on each of his shoulders she asked, “Are you OK now?” turning to me to affirm “He’s Ok!”; then to “Mary”, as she refers the statue of The Blessed Mother”, explaining to me that she is a female Buddha, then finally Jizo. As we continued around the peace trail toward the bell the story got more involved, with an occasion of course to make a snow angel or two or three, that would protect “Buddha-Land” from being buried. When we arrived at the bell at the entranceway to the trail, she wanted to ring it and in order to do so, she began to climb a tree stump with snow on top. I suddenly witnessed both my “parent and age” surface. “Don’t climb that honey, you’ll fall and hurt yourself.” As always she continued to climb anyway with me reaching out to support her, stood atop it, and didn’t hurt herself as she rung the bell, “letting everyone know that Buddha-Land was safe and secure.”