Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Dharma of Bugs Bunny

That's me as a little dot in the snow. Puts it all in perspective, don't you think? We spend most of our days thinking whatever is going on in our world and our personal needs are the most important thing, well at least to us. We spend a lot of time arranging the world to suit us. But if we are honest with ourselves the reality is more like this picture. It is one of our biggest delusions, that the world is here to make us happy.

I have had lots of time to watch what my little self gets up to during the recent luscious snowfall here that ground everything to a halt and knocked power out for 2 days. The snow was beautiful -- at first, and then when we'd run out of water and the toilet didn't flush and it was getting a mite chilly, I decided I didn't like this game anymore. Ah the comfort seeking human. Give me a latte when I come in from the cold and a computer to plunk away at and the snow is quite delightful. I remember a talk by Tenzin Palmo where she says something like: "if you want to find the most comfortable seat in the house, look where the cat or dog is sleeping." She reminds us that we can do better than to simply be comfort seekers, that while this may be our inclination, that is not what this precious life is for.

As day 2 of powerlessness lumbered to a slow close I felt the restless agitation of wondering when the magical sound of the fridge coming on might occur. A few hours? A few days? Longer? It wasn't so much the events of the day, it was the spin the busy, fussy mind put on it. Of course there were the lovely walks around the pond decked out in its delicious snowiness with a sugary skim of ice that the ducks danced on. And the moonlight on the snow made up some for the missing lights. And dinner by candle light. And qi gong by moonlight. And living by the rhythm of the day, like some ancient druidic being.

But the mind found more to stir itself up, missed deliveries of reno materials and work schedules buried under a layer of snow. There was the mind turning little somersaults (or should that be wintersaults) and jumping up and down like Yosemite Sam ( I know you Bugs Bunny fans are out there studying the Dharma). I got to see the stark cold facts, (lame pun intended). I am pretty attached to lights and my computer and a warm bed (I think I might have been a dog or cat in my former life). And when the power made its long awaited debut, I noticed how I flinched with each subsequent flicker, how I furrowed my brow at the evening gusts of wind as I filled bowls of water (just to be prepared). Do you know how much snow you have to melt to make a pot of coffee, flush a toilet??

I got to see that age old Dharma lesson: storms happens, suffering is optional. Suffering is a product of the mind, the mind clinging to it's ridiculous desires about how life should unfold. Yet we fall for this little sucker time after time. And of course in the grand scheme of things this was a small event, but still an opportunity to study the self. (And Dogen reminded us, "to study the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be enlightened by everything.")

And finally when I had harassed myself enough I decided it was time to put my mind on notice and get out some paints, find a half finished canvas and sit down by the fire. It was time to simply get on with life. I told my mind I was taking the high road. I've heard it's less crowded.


  1. I have this vision of you like the heroine in Doctor Zhivago - sleeves pulled over fingers, painting by lamplight!

    In the Ice Storm of '98, we were off-grid for 15 days. We all slept in the kitchen with the woodstove, dogs and cats. The horses loved it because they got bottled water. Our daughter whined a lot until we brought out the cheesecake from the freezer - and it stayed frozen... We survived. We're tougher than we can imagine and that really was not a hardship until we listened to ourselves. ;-)

  2. ahh my dear, the wisdom of "life's" storms, riding them out and reminding ourselves that equanimity is still possible...practice, practice, practice!!!
    gentle steps

  3. What a wonderful post and photo. I can almost hear the silence. I guess that's what I love most about a new heavy snowfall. I can relate to anxiously waiting for the hum of the refrigerator/freezer protecting again all of the food stored in it. I am told all of this is an illusion, if so, mental perceptions like your beautiful photo, hot lattes, and the internet are illusions to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. I love this post... You have such a beautiful way of expressing the Dharma. And the photo - what can I say - a Druid amongst her ancient trees "living the rhythm of the day..." Nice... And how interesting that "you" turned it into "harmony" with what is... Delightful... Christine

  5. 108 - I'd probably start using that fur coat to apply the paint. For sure I'd be rubbing some ash on to the canvas!

    Laura - yes life is continually offering the material of practice. Today my new kitchen cabinets made it to the bottom of the driveway - no further. some times you just have to let it all go!

    Eva - important point, it is fine in fact advisable to savour deeply. A famous zen teacher used to say "if you are going to sin, sin vigoursly!"

    Christine - the snow and its trials made me think of you in Colorado, you who are much more familiar with all this white stuff. yes working on accepting everything and enjoying the show!

  6. Amazing photo of you with those towering trees amid all that snow.
    I've been thinking about moving north someday to Oregon, and my husband keeps reminding me that we won't have the warm, central California weather. Your post brings a whole new light to what that means. I guess it's all about layers of comfort. The deeper we go the truth we find.