The Beauty of Being All There

Tara Protecting from the Eight Fears, Kham Province, Eastern Tibet; 19th century Pigments on cloth, Rubin Museum of Art, Gift of Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, F1997.15.1 (HAR 237).

One day in downtown Manhattan, I walked behind a man who laughed, block after block. There would be little lulls when the laughter would glide into happy sighs but then a fresh gale of laughter would kick in, sometimes coupled with jogging and even skipping. At first, this public display of wild happiness delighted the crowd, inviting us all to laugh along with him. But after a time, it was unsettling.

“What are you on?” a middle-aged woman shouted after him. “We all might want some!”

Or not. The great law of impermanence was at play here: what seemed pleasant at first shaded into unpleasant and unsettling. And the intelligence of human instinct was at work too. The extremity of the man’s state, the lack of change and modulation, signaled imbalance and potential danger. This is why clowns can seem so sinister (we won’t even mention mimes).

But when the Buddha went walking after his enlightenment, he attracted attention for the opposite reason.  He stopped another man in his tracks, inspiring him to ask multiple questions about who or what he was, because he of his extraordinary presence. The Buddha was radiant, yes. But he was also completely present, body, heart, and mind. This state of balance, of being ALL THERE, attentive in every way, and also completely at ease, seemed preternatural to the other man. And also beautiful. Just as we have an instinctive intelligence that warns us of danger, we have a capacity to recognize beauty and balance. This capacity is akin to recollection. Something in us longs for and somehow remembers how it feels to be all here.

This week, if you wish, join me in noticing moments of being present in a more complete way, body, heart, and mind (or two out of three). Notice that the more of you is present–no one part dominating–the more balanced and grounded you feel. Notice the way fear disappears, as a more balanced state attracts wisdom and compassion and a clarity that lights your way.

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