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Lions Roar : September 2012
PHOTOBYTIMROBINSON/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,UK THE MESSAGE COMES WITH good intentions, as do most things designed to inspire, so I click on the link in my email and watch the short video. First I see a sleeping newborn swaddled in a blanket, followed by a silken black butterfly perched on a finger, a dewdrop dangling from a leaf tip, and a nest cradling two luminous robin’s eggs. Images dissolve to a piano sere- nade—a foggy meadow at daybreak, the fiery blaze of an ocean sunset, a peach pie cooling on a plank table, and a vase of peonies gracing a windowsill. A boy bites a glisten- ing red popsicle at that perfect instant before it slides off the stick. A golden-haired girl blows the dancing flames from her birthday candles. “Moments,” the voiceover says. “Moments like this are all we have.” They are happy, captivating shots, drenched in color and sentiment. The eye wants to drink them in and dwell. Compared to this, my life seems mostly washed-out and even wasted. I stop the show. Something’s wrong with this picture. Pies and popsicles are appealing, but these pictures don’t quite capture the essence of life. Not the whole of it. Later on, in the bathroom picking up dingy wet towels, I notice the mildew creeping up the bottom of the shower curtain. This is not the life of precious tributes. It’s not one of the moments you want to frame and keep. It’s one you want to throw out. And many of us do. We replace people, places, and things that have grown charmless and tire- some—which they always do. Fascination fades and rest- lessness stirs. Chasing the picture perfect, we can lose what we have in abundance—the times that teach us even more than the rare delight of butterflies or a robin’s blue eggs. We lose the hours, the days, and the decades when nothing much seems to happen at all. Time freezes. Paint dries. Mildew spreads. We’re bored out of our minds. Boredom is the unappreciated path to patience, peace, and intimacy, so who would read a paean to it? Let that be your koan. Face the Wall Bodhidharma faced the wall. The Second Ancestor, having cut off his arm, stood there in the snow and said, “My mind is not at peace yet. I beg you, Master, please put it to rest.” Bodhidharma said, “Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest.” The Second Ancestor said, “I have searched for my mind, but I cannot take hold of it.” Bodhidharma said, “There, I have put your mind to rest.” I happen to love this koan. Every time I look at it I notice something beautiful. You might not see it, because there’s not much going on here. Plus it doesn’t paint an especially Booooring... Like, say, staring into space. Or counting your breaths. Or living life just as it is. KAREN MAEZEN MILLER on the virtues of boredom. SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 19