I was sitting on the grass reading during my son’s soccer practice, when an older man took a break from his walking exercise, stopped, and sat next to me. Out of the blue, he began to talk about God, and pretty soon we were off chatting about The Buddha, Jesus, meditation and what it’s like to look for truth in this messy world of ours. I was tickled, as I always am when someone chooses to chat about the very stuff I live and breathe all day long. Maybe he sat next to me because I was reading a book on spirituality (I can’t remember), or because I looked comfortable close to the earth in half-lotus pose, or perhaps his old age prevented him from caring about the social norms of talking to strangers about God. Maybe he sensed that I really wanted someone to share my heart with. I’m not sure why and I wasn’t surprised, as people tend to somehow smell my desire for esoteric conversation. Regardless, I was grateful to have a friend to sit with on the grass and pass the time talking of such things.
I often feel the loneliness that a bhakti-yogi-type living in the suburbs does. A loneliness of living in a world that looks different than the one other people live in. A world where my internal reality is miles apart from what is going on around me. A world where I know I may be stirring up trouble, or worse yet – yawns, when I bring up the subjects of my heart and soul.
So I sat grateful and amused, with this strange new friend of mine and chatted happily with him about The Buddha. His eyes were twinkling and he seemed as tickled as I was to find a little quiet space – a sanctuary in the middle of the busyness around us – that was calm and safe and exciting in which to share. I loved it, as I never tire of experiencing the divine; talking about it, teaching it, and sharing with others what’s in their hearts, minds, bodies and souls.
The Buddhists teach, “All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond.” Religions and philosophies make up these fingers. Some fingers are old and gnarled and struggle to point straight. Some fingers think they are pointing at the moon, but point to a bright star without knowing better. While the finger cannot be the moon, we can use these pointers, these descriptions of what is real and strive to look beyond. I’m voraciously interested in both – the many fingers as well as the moon.
Investigating something that cannot be described, touched or named is a daunting task. Yet, if we are to reach the experience of reality, one of our best tools is using words, concepts and ideas to help us calibrate our fingers so that we are at least pointing each other in the general direction – and if we’re really lucky, the precise direction – of the moon. From there, it’s up to us to look beyond, to move from a place of concepts to a place of true experience.
This Sanctuary is a way to retreat, to explore the topics of mind, body and soul with reckless abandon. It’s a place where we honor all of the fingers pointing at the moon, while still acknowledging that we must look beyond. It is somewhere to play with the divine in its many forms, the concepts that work for us, and the ones that don’t. It’s a place to learn, to unlearn, to ask the big fat, fearless questions. A place to figure out what is real, what is illusion, and whether that matters at all. It’s a place to sort through our dogma and decide what, if any of it is worth keeping. This sanctuary is a place to see our true selves more transparently. Oddly, this sanctuary is a place for fearlessness.
Let’s play adventurously with the very stuff we’re made of – body, mind and soul. Let’s geek out on the big questions of life and explore new ideas. Let’s go deep and brave and wild. I invite you to pull up a piece of earth, pause in the middle of the chaos and rest your weary ass next to mine. This is your sanctuary. Nobody will fall asleep on you here!