Sharing by Eileen Dolan
This morning I was clearing the snow off the sidewalks at the Temple. Beautiful cotton candy flakes floated to the ground. The sound of rubbery crunching steps of my boots and the systematic scraping of shovel on concrete amplified the peace surrounding me. Absorbed in the task in front of me, I felt I was making real progress, then I turned around and saw everything that had been cleared was covered again.
I thought about what the Master Bao Thanh has said about cleaning up my mind. It is not just a onetime thing where you sweep away the negative thoughts, words or actions and then you are done, but it is something which requires ongoing vigilance. You might have to shovel the same spot a number of times to keep it clear.
We all have within us a pure mind and heart capable of profound compassion. Only most of us have lost touch with it. I have had glimpses of what that pure compassion might be like when someone I love was leaving me or was dying. In those times of grief, my heart cherishes every second left with the loved one. Actions of kindness, tenderness, and thoughtfulness pour out of me. Any hurt or resentments are dissolved and things that seemed so important become trivial as one contemplates the end.
When our pure nature is active or you might say awake, every moment is pouring forth with such deliberate compassion, it does not have to be only in times of grief. Yet for most of us that gentle love is frozen under the hardened crust of our corrupted minds. A moment of anger… more snowflakes fall, judgements… more flakes, fear…. more flakes, misunderstandings, hurt feeling.. etc. etc. etc. Soon the pristine sidewalk of our hearts is frozen beneath inches of snow. We feel hardened and trapped. We mistakenly believe that we are that anger, that our judgmental thoughts are real, and our hurt feelings are justified. And so, we suffer. The negativity takes over, isolating us from others, and filling us with bitterness towards others or the reverse, loathing towards ourselves.
As I shoveled the snow today, I came to areas where the new snow was covering a layer of hard ice. This ice was from the last snow which had never been cleared. This is what my spirit was like when I first started coming to the Temple almost ten years ago. Years, probably lifetimes, of accumulated negativity, set in patterns of thinking and reacting.
I have been given new tools, the shovel of mindfulness. My teachers have shared their snow removal skills of compassion energy and have ploughed through the heavy hardened layers with me using the snowblower of their merit. We worked together, my clumsy beginner mindfulness skills shoveling through, combined with Su Co Bao Co & Master Bao Thanh’s skillful teaching and compassion energy. All of this effort has finally begun to break through my ignorance. With unbelievable patience they helped me uncover and find my Buddha nature.
When I came to the end of my shoveling today, the sun had begun to warm things up. Now with no effort, the snow was melting on the sidewalks, and becoming completely clear. It made me think how the years and years of practicing, were all working together to free me of my negative thought patterns and allow my Buddha nature to shine. My heart and mind are finally warming up. When the snowflakes of negativity fall, I see them more quickly, and I am finally beginning to just let them melt away. There are still numerous times when my mind becomes a blizzard of confusion, and I begin to get weighed down. Su Co Bao Co always tells me to look at my practice, my life is a reflection of my practice. I keep working on fine tuning the breathing techniques and chant the mantra: Mu A Mu Sa along with the Master every day as he teaches online. I try to apply all that I have learned and remember that I am not alone. I have all the support of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions