Monday, March 14, 2011
The Temple on the Way to Costco
My teacher told me a story of master yoga teacher Richard Freeman who was once demonstrating an outrageously technical yoga position to a group of advanced practitioners. After the pose, someone raised their hand and inquired, “What do you do to prepare yourself for that pose?” Richard Freeman paused in thought, then frankly responded: “Three deep breaths.”
Another profound teaching came to me a few years ago when my wife, Celeste, was visiting her cousin Robin in Hawai’i. Celeste was happily carless and mostly careless on the remote beach in Robin’s backyard. Occasionally, when Robin was heading into town, she’d invite Celeste to come along. On the ride, Celeste mentioned that she would like to visit the Buddhist temple, famous on Oahu. “You mean the temple on the way to Costco?” Robin said, as if this sacred temple were merely a landmark on the way to the more substantial temple of abundance and commercialism. Still, I hate to draw too much of a line between Costco and the Temple on the Way To Costco because for me what I’ve learned about temples and sacred places is the only spirit you find there is the spirit that you bring with you. The point is, we go to temples to be reminded of the divine part of ourselves, but what yoga teaches and what we get to practice every time we come to our mat, is that any place—a temple, a prison cell, a yoga mat, a piece of nature, your workplace—can become sacred ground with the right attitude and attention to details. You can find spirit in Costco, too.
This week as you work to provide for yourself and your family, you might just find yourself standing at the entrance of Costco. Before entering, maybe pause. The Costapo (the sentinels at the temple gate) and other shoppers rushing in and out won’t suspect anything as you pull out your grocery list. They won’t notice the mantra you’ve perhaps written on your list before the broccoli and bread and cat food. And before stepping in, you might wonder, “How can I do it? How can I possibly remain mindful and grounded in this circus, this craziness?” Try this: three deep breaths.
May we all have happiness, like the way you feel after a good laugh, or finding five pounds of your favorite cereal on sale for a steal.
May we all be free from sorrow, even though sad things happen in life.
May we all enjoy that deep, lasting happiness despite our ups and downs.
And may we enjoy balance in life, even at Costco where things get too loud, too busy, and too much, without being too clingy or too annoyed by things.
And no matter what, may we honor everybody as a unique and special thing.
(Modified from Sogyal Rimpoche The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)