Notes on a Buddhist path

A Good Day

June 10, 2012 By | 1 Comment

May all find simplicity the joyous and practical guide.  ~ Buddhist text

As often happens on my Sunday writing day, I sit down at my computer and have no idea what I am going to scribe. Somehow, so far, grace and my muse have always found me. Today as I tackled my perpetual mound of email, I opened my Gratefulness Word of the Day message and there it was. Simplicity.

My Sunday started simply enough. It opened with sadness. Lying in the languid dawn I felt two dismal realizations slip into bed with me. First, what I was looking forward to most in the day just inches away from beginning was sitting on my couch in the silence of the early morning drinking my hot, frothy cappuccino, believing beyond all incontrovertible evidence that any and all joy I would experience this day lived in that cup. Second, I hungered for someone to be sitting next to me conjoined in bliss and our coffee-is-life-existence. The piercing craving for a partner doesn’t visit me often, but it was tactile today, gnawing and scratching at my skin and the sheets that held me and my loneliness.

I crawled into the day and made myself that cup of coffee. Sitting on the couch, sipping my brew, I watched sadness lurking in the hollow of my chest. I felt the weight of its presence on my heart, watched it bend and turn, clench and surrender, grow viciously hot and blindly cold. I saw it writhe and scream and die, its skin and bones found by raptors and maggots until all of it was dust.

Then from the dust a seedling burst and stretched with its new life towards the warmth of being. Its coiled leaves and petals entrusted a flower to birth and its beauty and scent penetrated the place where sadness had occupied my body. I watched it die, spent and withering, but its death was without a lure’s tug of sadness, knowing in that moment that all passes, the lovely and the forlorn.

It’s so easy to lose my way in all that I think must be done. Clean the house and pay the bills. Yoga practice and empty the cat litter box. Meditate and write pithy prose. Then I catch myself and bring it all back to this infinitesimal speck, this moment of being alive. All will pass. Everything is as fleeting as the wistful cloud that drowses across the sky or the petulant wave that tantrums to the shore. Nothing exists beyond this fracture of the time continuum.  What could be more simple?

Henry David Thoreau once wrote “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” Do I still want a partner in my life? A bit, but there’s no poverty in the thought, no belief that someone’s bum on the couch next to mine will make my life richer or less lonely. I’d still like someone to share a meal with sometimes, to talk with me and laugh with me as we do the dishes together. I’d like to wake up and feel the warmth of a compassionate heart next to mine. Yet more than any of those things I want to not want them. It’s in the desire to have and have not that solitude, poverty and weakness can choke life out of us. It’s in the complexity of wanting that life loses its simplicity and its verve. It’s in wanting that we lose our way and a cup of coffee, or another human being, becomes the burning star of our universe.

Buddhist practice is simple and the most difficult lesson we can take on. We suffer. Desires cause suffering. Suffering can end. We breach each struggle one at a time, in each breath, in each mindful watching of our thoughts and what arises. Awakening to the simple revery of a day begun is enough to fill the sky with gratitude for the light pouring across its splendid body.

You know, it turned out to be a pretty good day after all.

A Good Day” with Brother David Steindl-Rast

 Image credit: Texture and flow by Michael Taggart Photography, Flickr Creative Commons, some rights reserved.


  1. Learning to be content in all circumstances is a lesson not easily achieved. Desiring to be content in life is a desire that brings suffering as well. I have never had the opportunity to learn to be alone and content. I have always been married. My relationship brings me great sorrow at times and yet the desire to remain is always present.

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