Notes on a Buddhist path

Will that be one egg or two?

January 15, 2012 By | 4 Comments

Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.” ~ The Talmud

My mother always used to say “to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs.” Or maybe that was Julia Child. In any case I got the message early on that sometimes things have to get messy before the good part shows up. After a long run of bliss, a bit of Humpty Dumpty circumstances have wobbled me this past week.

As messes go it could certainly be worse. I’ve just been feeling a coating of sadness shrink-wrapping itself around me. Its cause lies in a few branches of my life: relationships, obligations, a general sense of over extension that has asked me to reassess some commitments and choices. As with all things I know this will pass, but I also knows it’s time to get cooking.

Heading to work on the bus a few days back all I wanted was to cosy up with my novel and ignore the doom and gloom pressing up against me. Instead I closed my eyes and just breathed into my body, searching for where the sadness was perched under my skin. (TIP: meditating on the bus is awesome; people just figure you’re asleep and pay you absolutely no mind. I highly recommend it.)

In a short time I found the weight of my sorrow sitting smack dab on my chest, more specifically on my heart. Next step was to investigate it a bit: what did it feel like? look like? what colour was it? was it warm or cold? what element: earth, air, fire, water? It turned out to be a hefty sized rock, grey, so much grey, and I felt its heaviness pushing against the rising and falling of my chest. As I observed more closely I could see specks of white and black glittering in its mass, and after a bit it began to melt into liquid silver and I watched it flow towards the edge of my heart. I followed it and dove in, melding with its shimmering fluidity and found myself swimming in a deep clear pool of water. Silence and a comforting sense of being held joined me in the spaciousness of my floating consciousness. The unhappiness shifted and although I still felt its presence its hold on me diminished.

In the Dhammapada, Buddha compares the lotus to those bits and pieces we don’t like in our lives.

Just as a sweet scented and beautiful lotus can grow from a pile of discarded waste, the radiance of a true disciple of the Buddha outshines dark shadows cast by ignorance.”

It is easy to feel peaceful and full of one’s ego self skipping along the path of enlightenment when all is well, when happiness, cute little bunny rabbits and little song birds dance by our side like a Disney film brought to life. It’s quite another rocky trail when unpleasant feelings and circumstances join us on our journey. Yet there is where the work truly lies.  Sitting down with the pain of our body and our emotions shifts it from what we would initially define as “bad” and offers a new compassion for ourselves and the pain itself.  Honouring the gift of my sadness was a way to see it dissolve and float to the bottom of that deep pool of water to become the nourishing soil that supports the beauty of the lotus rising to the sky.

Is the sadness gone? No, not entirely, but walking home yesterday I felt such beauty in the swirl of haughty snowflakes that licked my cheeks and watching now the crisp blue sky peer out from behind the gauze of playful clouds I feel the roots of joy setting themselves again. As Virginia Woolf once said, “Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.” The lotus’s seed cannot be contained. The knife cannot stay sheathed. There’s too much life to be lived in all its shades and sizes to not cut through the ego’s illusion of separateness and exclusion when we encounter less than agreeable experiences day after day. For me, I trust new seeds will appear and the blade of awareness will stay sharp. Its honing is my practice.

Hmm, not a bad omelette after all.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Excerpt from the poem, “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda.

Image credit: AnnyMal


  1. Thank you for this, Tess. By entering into the weight that sat in/on your chest, by exploring its texture and dimension, etc., you found that “its hold on me diminished.” Wonderful. Instead of turning away or covering up, whole-hearted confrontation.

    “Facing a precious mirror, form and reflection behold each other. You are not it, but in truth it is you,” says Tozan Ryokai (806–869), founder of Soto Zen school. “Penetrate the source and travel the pathways, embrace the territory and treasure the roads.”

  2. Lynn Marttila says

    Loved your story Tess and the beauty that you admired and which, although the following day, changed yur state. It reminded me of Atum’s recent words during Sufi camp…(my wording) that if we had come with a wounding or were feeling sad, depressed….we were to go out and search the beauty of our surroundings. I did just that around the environment of the camp. It came to you naturally! Yes your omelette was tasty!

  3. Tess,

    This is so luminous and beautiful. You write about sadness in a way that leaves no room not to see it as a gift. I also love how you weave western writers and eastern philosophy in so easily. I’m glad I found my way back to this blog. Thank you for writing.

  4. Thanks Chris! Your words mean so much. My heart just sighed with warmth.

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