Monday, December 9, 2013

Shoveling Snow with Buddha

 In this fantastic season of snow and cold and shopping and parties, it's easy to get lost in the motion of our own minds.  To offset the inherent busyness of the season perhaps we  could borrow the tradition of indigenous cultures who use this time of winter and cold to come inside, both physically and mentally, to spend a few more minutes exploring the solace of our hearts the quietness of our spirits. 

Here's a simple practice :
2.Close your eyes.
3.Find your breath.

Then when you find your beautiful state of stillness, try to carry it with you into your shopping and be a little more generous with the sales person working the seasonal job, perhaps a little overwhelmed, who has been thrown into the lions den of commercialism during the craziest season of the year. Maybe we could be a bit more conscious of those who have less than we do. Maybe we could also explore ways to give that are more meaningful than just the quantity of digits on the price tag.  Perhaps we can find the stillness in everything we do and share that with others.  

Oh, and turn shoveling snow into a yoga practice. When you do find yourself shoveling snow, that stuff can be  heavy so make sure you go slowly and use your core strength. Then come to yoga to help strengthen your core, stretch out those shoulders, warm up, and help you find that center you can carry with you during this season.

Here's one of my favorite winter poems that speaks to this perfectly. 

Shoveling snow with Buddha

n the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok 
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.  


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