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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 41 Student: I’m reaching for the light, please help me. Teacher: Forget about the light. Give me the reaching. — ZEN KOAN THE DESIRE FOR a more beautiful life is ancient and enduring. In medieval times it meant dressing in bright silks and having long and colorful processions; the desire was poured into objects, too, into paintings and cathedrals with stained- glass windows. Inside the desire for a more beautiful life is the desire for a more beautiful character. We all have the urge to be better people, and behind all our self-improvement there is a profound impulse. Self-improvement is a gateway, the first step in a quest, a clue to a deeper life. The most beautiful form of the beauti- ful life is inner freedom, the awakening taught in the ancient spiritual traditions. We can start anywhere Everything alive has desire. The amoeba improves its life by swimming to the nutri- ent-rich side of the pond. The shopper improves her life by getting mousse that will hold her hair up really, really high for the wedding. A list of my Amazon purchases would reveal that weird medieval texts, Galactic Light Blasters (“colors may vary”), and Japanese chef ’s knives will improve my life. Unreasonable desires are universal. I just have to look through my credit card statements or Amazon purchases to see how desire becomes unwieldy, chaotic, and self-contradictory, running wild like A Beautiful Wish Like the lotus in muddy water, our wish to be better people grows among our many worldly desires. Just look at the wanting itself, says Zen teacher JOHN TARRANT. That is the gate. PHOTO BY JAMES MENGES and you could use a little improvement...