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Lions Roar : May 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2009 75 bumps. When I had a nice pile of smooth twigs no more than six inches long, I con- structed a lean-to with them. Then I put some stones and shells inside it, to serve as chairs and tables for the fairies. I didn’t exactly believe in fairies, but I assumed there were unseen forces in the universe and I wanted to contact them. They were either very small or very large. When I lay on my stomach and stuck my face into the sweet-smelling grass, I saw a little red dot that revealed itself to be a spider when it crawled up a blade of grass. To that spider I was as big as a whole world. Then I rolled over on my back, careful not to crush the spider, and looked at the clouds—the layers of them, some so far up that they made the near clouds seem to move in the opposite di- rection. Compared to them I was a little red spider. I was microscopic and huge at the same time. I practiced handstands, and the more I practiced the longer I could stay up. I liked the part where I kicked up the sec- ond foot, when the momentum took over and inverted the world. I wanted to be able to walk on my hands. I could take the first step—could pick up my right hand and quickly put it down again a few inch- es forward before I fell—but I wanted to take a second step with the left hand. Pa- tiently, I practiced. It seemed important. When my shoulders got tired, I sat on the grass to rest and rearranged the fairies’ furniture in their lean-to. “Okay, fairies,” I said. “Watch me walk on my hands.” I swung my feet up against the sky and this time I took two steps with my hands be- fore I came down. I gave a whoop. Robin Hood would be proud of me. Maybe I’d even join the circus. My parents didn’t worry that I was wandering around exploring the natural world by myself; they knew I would fol- low their only rule: not to go in swimming alone, and the only other local hazard was poison ivy. They didn’t know I was full of longing for something I couldn’t name because I didn’t tell them. “Susie! Time for lunch!” came my mother’s voice. The other world was call- ing, the middle-sized world. AS I GET OldER, I find myself coming back to childhood yearnings. I both seek solitude and fear it, just as I did at ten. I’m upstairs in my study in my quiet house. I’m drinking Heavenly Mist green tea and sitting in my favorite chair, with my feet hanging over one arm like a teenager, looking out the window at the redwood tree. I’m wondering who I am and what I’m doing here in this bag of skin, as the old Chinese Zen masters called it. Why am I still the only one inside my separate self? Twice I wasn’t alone in my body. I could feel the company inside as I watched the bulge of a foot move within my belly. For a change, I liked having someone else with me in the small apartment of my body, though I liked it even more when the ba- bies came out to meet me. If I had a partner now, I expect it would take the sharp edge off my longing, but I would still feel an essential separation. My longing is not about being alone in my bed; it’s about being alone in my head. These days, I sit in meditation at home and I go out to sit with others in Buddhist centers. Sometimes I sit in the teacher’s seat, sometimes I sit in the seat of a stu- dent, and always I sit in longing. In that slow turn between the out-breath and the in-breath, the question sometimes arises: How do I get out of this bag of skin? Twice I wasn’t alone. I could feel the company inside as I watched the bulge of a foot move within my belly. I liked having someone else with me in the small apartment of my body, though I liked it even more when the babies came out to meet me. You’re already enlightened: perfectly, completely, and right now. But accessing that natural state requires the effort of spiritual practice. Ferguson highlights the twin, essential aspects of the path: faith in our awakened nature and commitment to practice, showing how each supports the other to lead us to the deepest truth. Discovering the Wisdom We Were Born With Shambhala “Wise, warm- hearted, and practical.” —Jack Kornfield