On the Grass
“We and everything we perceive are woven and interwoven
And this interweaving continues on and on, while each thing stands in its own place.”
~ Shitou Xiquan
We are now in our fifth day of a week-long retreat, visiting with Shitou, an 8th century Chinese Zen teacher, who wrote the above lines in a long poem that has been translated, Taking Part in the Gathering. For me, these few lines touch on the simple fact in Zen that our universe actually is not in opposition to us, but deeply supportive. Each interweaving of the vast brocade of the world not only makes our life possible, but actually is the source of our life.
Some years ago, living at the edges of a Zen community, I heard the story of a young boy who was paraplegic ~he could use his arms but not his legs~ and who, despite his handicap, really loved to play baseball. So his team mates would put him far out in left field, alone on the green grass with his baseball mitt, waiting for a ball to come his way. Inning after inning, he would sit in the outfield, alone.
To be sure, this is a simple story of bravery and heart. And one that we might identify with our own Zen practice: often feeling alone and less than capable, we hopelessly wait for impossible odds that the baseball ~awakening~ will reach our mitt. But probably the boy understood something that we often forget: the point is not about catching a ball. The point is smelling fresh cut grass on a spring day, hearing the crickets not far away, and watching the white clouds billow and dance high in the blue sky above home plate. Last night, visiting outside with a friend after a long day of meditation, we heard a Great Horned owl calling from the dark forest up the hill. We began to call to it, and it came closer.