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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
buddhadharma| 37 |spring 2007 with covering my body, admiring the darts and seams and insets that search out its topography. Most of my physical tasks have taken on this ceremonial quality. If we can’t be speedy and pro- ductive, if something as simple as putting on clothes takes all of our attention and focus, we must find our home in the activity itself as its goal recedes into the future. the practice of doing each thing for its own sake, the staple of Zen training, had mostly eluded me as a Zen student striving for enlighten- ment and better housing at Green Gulch Farm. but now, as I live in the vibrancy of the sensual pres- ent, clearly seeing each moment as my most viable source of solace and delight, I prefer to stay right here. I have lost any sense that there is something special or tragic about my circumstances. Day in and day out, they are just my life. one of many elements of my consciousness, and that is pain I can live with. With such a mind, life becomes richly textured. Consciously putting a cup on a table and feeling the flat surfaces meet becomes a rare, satisfying, “just-right” kind of experience. Washing dishes is not just about getting the dishes clean; it’s also about feeling the warm, soapy water soothing my arthritic fingers. Doing laundry, I can smell its cleanness and luxuriate in the simple movements of folding, a counterpoint to my complex life. For people in pain, tapping into this wisdom beyond wisdom is simply how to survive. When we have nothing left to hold on to, we must find comfort and support in the mundane details of our everyday lives, which are less than mundane when they’re the reason we’re willing to stay alive. this is the upside of impermanence: the shining unique- ness of beings and objects when we begin to notice their comforting presence. When preferences for a particular experience fade, the myriad things come forward to play, shimmering with suchness. obvi- ously, flowers and trees do this, but so do beer cans and microwaves. they’re all waiting for our embrace. It is enormously empowering to inhabit a world so vibrant with singularity. thirty years after first being devastated by pain, I never enter a room without noticing what sources of comfort and ease will sustain me: not only the recliner and the pillow but also the light streaming in from the window, the handmade vase on the table, even the muffled drone of the air- conditioner – all of it created for the pleasure of human beings. by bringing into my conscious life objects that offer their kind companionship – my toothbrush and my dishes, my spoon and my car – I feel their tangible support as well as their sometimes charming idiosyncrasies. awareness of this support can be simultaneous with resistance to my pain and the search for ways to stop it. these tracks don’t hinder each other; they are both active, engaged encounters. For instance, I have difficulty dressing. My arthritic shoulders, elbows, and fingers flinch from the stretching, tugging, and tying required to dress myself. Velcro might solve my problem, but it’s out of the question; I’m not and never have been a utili- tarian dresser. rather, I’m the sort who is thrilled by the fine art of asymmetrical hems, darts, double- stitched denim seams, linings in jackets, and bias- cut skirts. My throat catches at a flutter of silk in the breeze. My underwear is adorned with lace and embroidered flowers. Instead of hurrying to dress and becoming frustrated by how difficult it is to pull up socks, put on shoes, and button blouses, I make it a well-loved morning ritual: I lay out all the clothes on the couch and sit in the warmth of the morning sun as I put on each lovely article one at a time, noting the temperature change associated Untitled (Negative Legs), Silkscreen on paper ©KiKismiTh,CourTesypACewilDensTein,neWyorK