How to remember to reach for support

I’ve been deep in the contemplation of the Buddha’s awakening recently. This means I’ve been diving into not only the teachings, but what came before the teachings. Who was this being they call the Blessed One, before he wandered out of the castle walls, back when he was just a guy?

What did it take for him to become a parivrajaka — a wanderer? What did it take for him to eventually reject the extremism of asceticism and release any fixations he may have had to the rigid renunciation of his spiritual practices? What did it take for him to accept the bowl of rice he was offered and to accept that what he had been doing wasn’t working?

The historical Buddha is referred to as the Blessed One. He came in human form, and yet he is somehow not just like us. But, as scholar Douglas Brooks regularly reminds us, he is not so very unlike us, either. He was a human, not a God, so we can project all of our own human experiences onto him as we imagine his path.

I imagine that he hit the wall, in a sense. I imagine that, after starving himself alongside other ascetic spiritual seekers, he realized that he had enough of extremism. I imagine he knew he had to find a new portal inside himself, a new process that would carry him all the way home to a new relationship with reality.

When he finally sat down under the Bodhi tree, he reached down to touch the earth, and asked for her support as a witness. He asked to be seen by the unseen. In a gesture known as sparśa-bhumi, the earth-touching mudra, he reached for connection with the earth.

I find it so sweet, somehow, that this being, so prophesied for greatness, realizes still that he needs help — he needs to reach for some support, and finds that support in the earth. This guy, destined to become either a great Monarch or a great Sage, but either way a wheel-turner, a ChakraVartin, nonetheless knows his human frailty, his human need, and reaches for the earth.

What is it that you, today, can reach for? Life is intense and so easily pulls us under. We so easily forget what a magnificent undertaking it is to be awake, and how big this work is. The path can be arduous and dizzying, and so often, our brains feel woefully inept and not up for the task. So often, our bodies are in some sort of pain or breakdown. We forget how beautiful our hearts are amid such stormy weather as the winds of samsara.

We forget to reach for support.

What can support you as you climb this inner mountain, back into relationship with the fullness of your human potential?

Maybe there is some deep friend that you can call. Maybe just sending a message to someone, letting them know that you care for them, is enough to remind you of the good energy of your own heart, and the mysticism of human connection.

Maybe you need to take this body of yours out to the trail. Maybe this borrowed frame you’ve come to think of yours needs to run through trees, to pump blood, to sweat, to arrive home again shaky with the exertion.

Maybe you need to bask in a poem, your own or that of others. Maybe you need to pick up your own pen and surrender to the symphony of random words falling out of you onto a page. Maybe that is the witnessing you need – that of creative consciousness itself, that force that lives within us, yet is not of us. Creative work somehow cannot be controlled — it is way that the infinite breaks through, unbidden, and stretches us open.

Maybe you need to give yourself to beauty. To bask in it. To close the screen and find yourself amongst spring flowers. The fur of the cat. The warmth of the sun. Small pleasures.

We find our strength, somehow, by allowing ourselves to fall into our need for support.

I wish this for you, today. For all sentient beings.



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