Last week I wrote about balance being important during a recapitulation process, but maintaining balance is of course important at all times. By balance I mean everything from keeping the body and mind healthy with good eating, sleeping, exercise, and stimulating mental activity, to living a thoughtful, compassionate, loving, aware existence in the world, as well as finding a spiritual practice that personally resonates and allows for exploration of the inner self.
For me, balance means all of these things and much more. I’m in balance when I have time for creative work and meditation, even if only for a few minutes during especially busy or stressful times. I’m in balance when I cook, delighting in preparing even the simplest meal with fresh ingredients, and being offered the opportunity to share it in the presence of good company. I’m in balance when I take a few minutes to walk the dog or stroll down the road on a sunny afternoon taking in what nature offers. I’m in balance when I’m focused on a task or project. I’m in balance when I do inner work, attending to what arises during the day to puzzle or challenge me. I’m in balance when I write this blog. However, I awoke feeling very out of balance this morning and with absolutely no idea what I would write about today.
The dog was restless all night. We wondered if she was perhaps letting us know that her time here is almost done. She’s old. Her legs are bad. She’s deaf. When she sits outside in the yard the vultures begin to circle overhead. We’ve been noticing this phenomenon for weeks now, their keen senses of smell and sight picking up on the vulnerabilities of an old animal who would be unable, at this stage of life, to survive out in the wild. During the night I heard the coyotes howling several times and I wondered if she heard them too, calling her to the next world, come to accompany her spirit on its next journey. I worried about letting her out during the night, though she insisted, knowing that they were out there on the prowl.
She has a tendency to wander off. Early this morning I let her out for the millionth time since the night began and went into the kitchen to put the coffee on. Most of the time she goes outside and just stands motionless or wanders around marking her territory then heads back to the front door to be let back in, it’s a predictable routine. This time when I went to let her back in, she was nowhere in sight. Pulling on my rubber boots I went outside to look for her, noticing that the night sky with its brilliant spread of gleaming stars was beginning to cloud over. I saw her heading toward the neighbor’s open garage and set off at a jog, hoping to head her off before they discovered me standing between their cars in my pajamas. Before I could catch her she darted inside. Embarrassed, I darted in after her and coming up behind grabbed her by the thick mane around her shoulders, surprising her. She whipped around and stared at me, as if to say, “What the heck!? What are you doing?” Which is what I said to her.
Stubbornly, almost digging her heels in, she reluctantly allowed me to push, drag, and shove her back into the house. A little while later, Chuck had left for the office and she needed to go out again. By this time I was beginning to feel extremely frustrated, more out of balance at each scratch at the door signaling her desire to go out. This time I put a leash on her and took her for a walk. Upon returning to the house she refused to come back inside with me, though it was beginning to rain. I left her sitting outside, her leash looped around the neck of the stone Buddha we have sitting in front of our entryway. That ought to keep her safe, I thought.
Every few minutes I checked on her. Like the Buddha she sat quietly, sedately, the grand dame, the queen surveying her land, seemingly contented. All of a sudden she got up and before I could get to her she had dragged the heavy stone Buddha off the step. It fell, smashing its head into the step below, severing it from the body. The dog stood there, unaware of what had just happened. I grabbed the leash before she could do anymore damage and just stood there looking down at the beloved Buddha, the calm sentinel marking our door for so many years, now broken.
The Buddha has always been a symbol of balance to me, serene and calm, he sits unmoving, nothing bothers him and now he’s lost his head! “What does this mean?” I moaned, absolutely regretting the moment I had decided he was strong enough to keep our big dog from wandering. What does it mean indeed? I placed the head back onto the shoulders, where it now sits quite comfortably again. You would never know it was broken simply by looking at it.
I pondered the meaning of the Buddha losing its head. Suddenly I saw the significance of it: he doesn’t need his head! In other words, the Buddha is not the Buddha because of his head. He is the Buddha because he practiced losing his head, by sitting in stillness, detaching from the foibles of the conjuring mind. The Buddha is the symbol of mindlessness, empty head, having finally achieved ultimate clarity, enlightenment, and freedom from the temptations, frustrations, and restless activities of this world.
I must face my own attachment to this beautiful stone Buddha. Though the Buddha has lost his head I must not weep. I must be as contented as Buddha. Even now, with head severed by restless dog, he sits perfectly still, keeping watch over our front yard, still presenting me with the utter calmness of balance that I seek. Or perhaps now truly symbolizing what it means to maintain balance in life, that no matter what comes along to interrupt the flow of our lives or knock our heads off we must learn to anchor ourselves in the inner peacefulness and joy of just being.
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Sending you all love, good wishes, and balance.