Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Ones Who Are Not Awake

He or she who wakes up and understands is called a Buddha. It is as simple as that. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Yesterday morning, my husband and I packed our car to the brim with all of the essentials necessary for our first road trip with our new baby. We had the bouncy seat, the stroller, the huge supply of diapers, food for our dog...hell, I even packed a few canvas bags for shopping and some cloth napkins to try to limit the environmental impact of our trip.

So, despite getting little sleep the night before, I was feeling on top of things when we stopped to nurse the baby and grab some lunch two hours into our trip. As we pulled back onto the interstate, I casually asked my husband how much room the dog had in the back of the SUV with all of the baby gear (yes, we have an SUV; maybe the cloth bags and napkins are a way to ease some of that green guilt, but that's a post for another day). We looked at each other and had one of those moments when two people realize the exact same truth - a shared understanding of something unspeakable, and a shared vision of something unthinkable - at the exact same half-second: our dog wasn't in the back of the car. We had left her in Boston. We could only hope that Dixie -- our dearest baby before our girl was born -- was two hours away in our apartment and not outside on some city street, where she might be searching for us as we sped down the highway listening to NPR and admiring the last red leaves on the Scarlet Oaks.

My husband found an illegal way to turn the car around while calling a neighbor who would check our apartment to see if the pup was in there and not following us southward. He hung up, and we let the shock set in. Where were our heads? How could we have forgotten her? Isn't there a reason you're not supposed to operate heavy machinery on so little sleep? What would our lives become if the worst happened to her?

We had to distract ourselves from the guilt and disbelief that had sucked the air from the car and were choking us as we raced back home. So I reached into one of those canvas bags I'd packed and pulled out a book on tape that we borrowed from the library without much thought a few days earlier while checking items off our trip to-do list (next time, the list will include the words "pack dog"!). The tape was a series of lectures by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh called The Art of Mindfulness. Right away, Thich gently urged us: "be conscious of your in-breath, out-breath." After a few moments of measured breathing, he began talking directly to my husband and me. He spoke of the need to nuture mindfulness by being in the present moment, by being aware. Forgetfulness, he reminded us, is the opposite of mindfulness. Forgetfulness is being somewhere other than the present. We recognized that we were being given a lesson from Thich, but also from something beyond him. We felt aware of the universe, of God. And, just in time to receive the heartbreakingly wonderful news that our dog was safely waiting in our apartment, we began to wake up.

I think that for the rest of the trip we were the mindful beings that Thich Nhat Hanh spoke about. We saw a flock of blackbirds flying low over a city graveyard, we saw slate-purple swaths of cloud form a backdrop for the smoke billowing from a factory near Providence, Rhode Island. Just further south, we were aware of a hawk in the branches of a stately Spruce alongside the interstate bordering at least twenty acres that had been clearcut and were marked with a banner screaming "Coming Soon: Wal-Mart!". We were awake and aware of what surrounded us: unspeakable beauty next to the uspeakably dismal. Meanwhile, the good monk spoke about the ability of an awakened person to hold two truths together simultaneously: the positive truths that bring us joy, peace, and nourishment and the negative truths that encourage us to transform ourselves and our world. The ugliness of a landscape stripped of its berries, brush, pines and hawks - the future home of another Wal-Mart - could nourish our compassion if only we would be mindful of it, be aware. We needed to abandon our forgetfulness, our sleepy state where awareness is missing, where easy anger is present. We needed to wake up to the present paradox of beauty and ugliness. We needed to feel reality in its fullness and use it all for our good purpose. Only then will we be nourished by both the light and the dark and develop the compassion to help heal our planet and ourselves.

So we returned to Boston, retrieved our dog, and set off for the same journey, again - this time a bit more awake.

5 Comments:

  • At 8:28 PM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 8:34 PM, Blogger Roger, Gone Green said…

    Rofl!

    Which means you may have some insight into the old Buddhist koan wherein an ardent monk asked, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" and the master teacher replied "Mu."


    {gasho}

    Roger
    http://moontreezen.blogspot.com

     
  • At 2:56 PM, Blogger Andrea Rusin said…

    Oh dear.... Every new parent has done something like this. Forgive yourself. And try to sleep. This too shall pass.

     
  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger Laurie said…

    "We needed to abandon our forgetfulness, our sleepy state where awareness is missing, where easy anger is present. We needed to wake up to the present paradox of beauty and ugliness. We needed to feel reality in its fullness and use it all for our good purpose. Only then will we be nourished by both the light and the dark and develop the compassion to help heal our planet and ourselves."

    Nicely said. Now if I could just remember that...

     
  • At 2:24 PM, Blogger Laurie said…

    Oh, and I left the screen door stuck open the other day, and two of my indoor only cats wandered out to commune with the feral cats waiting on the porch for their supper. I didn't have an excuse!
    Luckily, it was pouring rain and nobody freaked out or got territorial or ran away.

     

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