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Lions Roar : January 2010
41 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 money is not visibly more unhappy than the other friends. The hard bits of life might not be the ones you are dreading. The good bits might be the ones that are always available—a slant of light through the garden and then the rain, running inside to get dry, cooking for friends, the sound of a bird in the early morning when you can’t get back to sleep, the act of impulsively giving something away when you have almost nothing. When you are present in your own life, it extends infinitely in every direction. 3. In a Dark Place, You Still Have What Really Counts The beauty and nobility of your life may be more visible to you if a dark contrast is available. A woman who was meditating with the koan at the start of this piece—the little conversation about hard times and “welcome”—was in an unusual situation. Her father was prosecuted for the murder of her mother, a death that happened decades ago and for which no resolution has been found. No one close to the situation believes her father did this. But someone with a grudge, and hearsay evidence, and a relative with dementia, and an eager prosecutor... If it’s a cliché that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, it be- comes personal when you are related to the ham sandwich. The woman with the meditation practice noticed some- thing unexpected, though—she is happy, she’s not outraged, and although people expect and even want her to be angry with the prosecutor, that is not what she feels. She gave coun- sel to her father, and sympathy, and money for defense lawyers, but she didn’t have to give her own emotional well-being. The intensity of the difficulty actually drove her to deeper practice and the world suddenly became very beautiful, not at an un- specified future date, when the situation would be resolved, but now, when nothing is resolved, or fair, or sensible—now, when it’s now. Even the prosecutor’s face glowed with light. “No one told me it would be like this,” she said. Awakening might happen at any time, perhaps especially when we are convinced that something else is going on. That’s a positive surprise, a benign catastrophe. 4. If You Are in a Predicament, There Will Be a Gate In the main, koans are predicaments that you can use in case you don’t have one lying around in your life. Usually, of course, you do have a predicament, since being human is a predica- ment. I might think that it’s a bad thing to have lost something, but if I start from the current situation there will always be a PHOTO©SEANROBERTS/HTTP://DNPEN.COM