Off the Rails Zen: Connecting Beyond the Temple Walls

If you’re drowning, I’ll drown with you. If you’re flying, I’ll grow some wings. I never ask people to change, and I honor your pain. Because that pain is the foundation of everything beautiful that can come to be. The same way that a crack in the wall can let in the morning light. You can keep the bells, chants, and rituals—those only alienate the people who need Dharma the most. You can keep your make believe teachers and made-up lineages. Zen is here, in the morning afters and midnight sighs. It’s in cold cups of coffee, sleeping cats, and winter light on a closet door.

 

By Anshi

“I hope you don’t mind, but I stole two of your beers,” she said when I got back home.

“Nope, that’s fine,” I replied, putting my fresh bottle of Xanax on the top shelf next to the Men’s Health vitamins, ant-acids and Lexapro. She’s an alcoholic who sees her daughter every other weekend, and I’m me. We’re both taking care of my grandmother who has moderate dementia.

After three months of hell, I had to get back on the meds. After one month of hell, she had to get back on the bottle—but just for tonight, at least in theory. Just for tonight.

She’s a hired caregiver who helps me out in the afternoons. After my grandma went to bed, she clocked out and stayed with me for a few hours. She’s quiet, thoughtful and kind. She’s damaged. She struggles. She’s part of my tribe.

We talked politics, religion, and the zodiac. We talked about relationships, abuse, and love. She asked me how long I’ve been single, and she said that she falls in love, “From the inside out,” where a person’s personality and what they’re about make them attractive or ugly.

My bed’s a three second walk from the kitchen. Red sheets in a crumbling room with big windows. My cat slept peacefully in her little box of bags as we fought off the cold night pressing in from the outside.

“Did you make it home safe?” I messaged her. “Yep :)” she texted back. “See you tomorrow.”

When I think of the “big picture,” I see bubbles. Countless bubbles floating in space.

In each bubble, there’s a cave, and in each cave there’s a person sitting by a fire. When these bubble touch, then there two people in the cave, but it still isn’t same. Because from your perspective, I’m in your cave by your fire. From mine, the situation’s reversed. And when those bubbles drift, it’s as if I leave you, but to me it’s you who leaves.

Sometimes these bubbles join and create another. Sometimes they merge so completely that there’s truly only one fire. But, no matter what, they all pop. Where does the fire go?

So we sat in our cave, sharing ourselves—or at least the selves of the moment. Both knowing the score, both seeing the big picture, both trying to make that infinite space come alive and shine. That’s the bodhisattva’s work. They go where they’re needed, and they are who they need to be.

If you’re drowning, I’ll drown with you. If you’re flying, I’ll grow some wings. I never ask people to change, and I honor your pain. Because that pain is the foundation of everything beautiful that can come to be. The same way that a crack in the wall can let in the morning light.

You can keep the bells, chants, and rituals—those only alienate the people who need Dharma the most. You can keep your make believe teachers and made-up lineages. Zen is here, in the morning afters and midnight sighs. It’s in cold cups of coffee, sleeping cats, and winter light on a closet door.

There are no students and no teachers, there’s just this moment that we can share but never understand. Like a hug in the night before she goes. The dream unfolds long before we go back to sleep.

 

Zen is here, in the morning afters and midnight sighs. ~ Anshi Click To Tweet

 

AnshiAnshi (安狮) is the pen name for a certain Chan Buddhist. He calls his introspective, autobiographical writing, “Living Dharma.” All names are changed to protect the privacy of those involved. If you know who Anshi is, please refrain from telling anyone. Feel free to check out his Facebook page.

 

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

Did you like this post? You might also like:

 

Taking Refuge: The Buddha’s Teaching on How to Get Through a Plague

  By Daniel Scharpenburg   As I'm writing this a lot of the world is in a sort of lockdown because of Covid 19. It has claimed a lot of lives and there's a lot of uncertainty regarding when the world will open up again. And it's...

The Lighthouse: What to do When Your Compassion Isn’t Welcome

  By Kellie Schorr Many years ago, while working as the leader of a youth group, I took some teens to a weekend “lock in” with young people and leaders from other places. The event leader set up a service project to feed the homeless who gathered in a certain...

Politics and Prayer Beads: Finding the Path in Portland and Beyond

  By Kellie Schorr It was a time of war. Acrid smoke stung the nose of the terrified woman cradling her infant son, huddled behind a wooden cart while the thatched roof of her home burns, billowing her dreams into the sky along with her...

What are You Growing?

  By John Lee Pendall Where have all the fields gone? Corn, beans, hay, corn, corn, corn, pot---gone. Houses grow from the earth here, laid out in rows across the city grid. Houses full of people, most of them terrible but some of them are...

Comments

comments

Latest posts by The Tattooed Buddha (see all)