There are gifts everywhere

There are gifts everywhere November 3, 2017

My writing candle 050917I am still on my retreat in Shropshire, writing like a demon. This morning I left my little apartment and went downstairs to the kitchen for my first cup of tea. As I came back into the stairwell I noticed a crumpled leaf on the floor in the shape of a little frog.

I looked more closely. It was a little frog. I lifted her into the palm of my hand, gently closing my fingers so she wouldn’t jump out, and carried her through the kitchen to set her down in the flowerbed. As we walked, I talked to her. “Hello sweetie! How did you get in here, darling? What a pretty little frog you are. Now don’t try and jump out. Careful, careful. Here you go, here you are my lovely. Off you go.”

She crawled off into the undergrowth, and I came upstairs to drink my cup of tea.

Yesterday I listened to a friend speak of her pain and, rather than turning away, I really heard her. I recognised her experience as something I feel too, in different areas of my own life. I felt tender towards her, and tender towards the tangled parts of myself. I didn’t feel tempted to tell her what to do to stop the pain. I didn’t think, “I’d never let that happen to me.” I saw that we were the same, and that all I could do was witness her, and understand how complicated these things are, and know that there is always hope.

The day before I looked up from my desk to see a squirrel teetering along the telegraph line, his tail wildly flapping like a ribbon in the breeze to keep him steady. He was heading for a huge tree with tangerine and mustard-coloured leaves. A scattering of birds flapped across the sky. He leapt into the air, catching the end of a branch that looked too fragile from here, too flimsy to hold his weight. He swung on it for a second before clambering up and dancing into the tree. I looked up squirrels online, and sometimes they do fall, and my heart broke for the ones who do. I was glad that this one made it, and I watched him as he went about his ordinary day, flying from here to there. What extravagance!

When I feel connected to the Buddha, I am more likely to notice little frogs in stairwells. I am more likely to hear my friends, and to stop writing every so often to enjoy squirrel acrobatics. There are gifts everywhere.

I have been enjoying my nembutsu practice this week, setting aside just five minutes in the mornings and the evenings to sing Namo Amida Bu. I have been using my mala with 54 beads, so every day has contained at least 108 recitations, as suggested in the precepts I took when I became a Priest with the Amida Order. These short practice periods are enough. They are the cracks that let in the light of Amida, and the light dazzles me.

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