I was up on the gravel of the Medicine Wheel where we were camping in the Santa Monica Mountains. The wheel was an area with four radii of colored rocks. I was tidying up various pieces of the colored gravel – pink, grey, sandy, white – that had got dislodged from where they belonged.
It was so nice. Just to be lifting little stones out of the dust and resettling them in their dedicated places seemed an immeasurable privilege. The feel of the warm dust. The barely detectable weight of the tiny rocks. The warm evening wind that was stirring through dry shrubs nearby, and the late lazy light of the desert sun softening the hills all around.
It was a reminder that one of the gifts of the wisdom of Zen practice is that it presses us gently to return to the world and tend it the best we can. Practice is not a matter of isolated mind-cultivation, it’s about living in the world in a new way, or an old way newly recovered.
It also reminded me that our happiness does not lie in what we have. It can be found only in what we do. This world is a gift. But it’s a gift that we have to unwrap. And the way to unwrap it is to engage with it. Whatever we may do, let’s not forget to meet this world — the actual earth, its creatures, its plants, its landscapes.
But – perhaps these grand-sounding instructions are really just reminders to myself.