Spring is my favorite time of year. It's not just that I was born in the spring, mid-April, it's just such a glorious time in many parts of the world, with budding trees and flowers, bursting with color – exuberant. It brings me a sense of hope and renewal. Hope itself, of course, is not a preferred state of being. We think more about the seesaw of hope and fear and how both extremes bring suffering. Meditation is something like a fulcrum for this shift between extremes. And for me, I feel most at an emotional fulcrum in spring and fall. The equinoxes bring a sense of equanimity: one foot in the past, one in the future, one foot in the warm, bright months, and one leaning into a colder, darker season.
It's not just that my grandmother, my mother and I maintained plants and gardens, flowers and succulents, vegetables and perennials, and trees. It is that we are part of this green Earth. We see so much more now, with the tenuous nature of climate change and environmental crises. But we must also remember the joys and the beauty, which are the very reasons we yearn to protect and nurture our Mother Earth.
It's strange when someone dies in the spring. Spring is a time of budding, growth and rebirth. It's even stranger when someone is a Buddhist master or an realized being who doesn't really die but just changes form. Yet, for us, it does not seem simple. It can seem quite complex, a sense of loss and grief, the immensity of the irretrievable kindness of the teacher, coupled with the deep grace and gratitude of knowing them and receiving their sublime teachings. If we are lucky, we also receive personal time, interviews, and even reprimands to redirect our journey on the path to enlightenment.
Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche taught me the preliminary practices as one of my first teachers when I was a baby Buddhist. Similar to a parent who teaches language, self-care skills and other building blocks of being human, ngondro brings us lessons in building the foundations of our meditation path. Rinpoche was straightforward, straightforward, approachable and had a raucous sense of humor.
This is the fourth time I have been momentarily shocked by the passing of one of my beloved teachers. Their hour of death, absorbing the news, sitting with their sacred body, in ceremonies with the sangha is not something you get used to. But as we age and hopefully mature in our practice, and just as human beings move towards aging, potential illness and our own dying process, we can come to understand this experience of losing the teacher in his physical form as an expanded awareness. and integration with the teacher in their form beyond the physical.
There is a saying, God is in the details. I never really knew what God is or isn't. Awakened mind or Buddha nature feels closer to home. It's a more intuitive idea that I can relate to. And as a lover of spring and spring things, I feel the Buddha in the details of everything, even now – especially now – following the passing of my teacher.
At these times, things traditionally considered negative, difficult, complicated, or confusing are just a little less separated from those things that are joyful and nurturing in my spirit. There is a slight softening of the line between positive and negative in what I reject and accept. Still, I need guidance and redirection from my teachers, and I'm so lucky that many of them stay in their physical form to guide me, scold me, and take care of me, and – most notably – to come together to share Dharma teachings. . These teachers, though in their human form and when no longer in their bodies, are much like the spring buds of jasmine and rose, clematis and wood anemone. Delicate, luminous, impermanent. Or the furious and jubilant rhododendron blooms the size of my skull glimpsed by the shock at the corner of the street.
Just as wisdom, laughter, the unexpected essential instruction of a great lama shocks the heart-mind into a state of complete and open emptiness, if only for a blink of an eye in which all our concepts are dropped . The mind can experience a deep sigh of letting go, of transporting the phenomena of this world, very briefly, to inhale the reality of just being a drop of dew clinging to a vine, on the fence, by the wooden gate. . I bow to my teachers living and beyond life, and those yet to come. I bow to their wisdom, their kindness, their patience and their humor! I bow to their willingness to lead us all the way to that door, open, available, and free to all who wish to enter the garden of the Buddhas.
As Mother's Day approaches in the United States, I connect the love of the Lama to the generosity of a mother's love for her children – her willingness to sacrifice herself and do whatever it takes. to ensure their survival and, hopefully, their flourishing. Although it may vary by culture, place and people, the craving itself is universal. This does not only apply to mothers, but also to fathers and guardians of all kinds. Whether it's a parent, aunt, teacher, friend, gardener, farmer or animal sitter, there are myriad ways to take care of each other and take care of each other. Meditation is how we take care of our deepest nature, our heart, our mind, our spirit, the continuity of presence in time and beyond time. As I look out the window above the desk, I see puffs of white viburnum blossoms, like miniature hydrangeas, next to fragrant jasmine. I see deep purple bearded irises, borage and wild herbs, lavender and rosemary, and in the distance the fig tree and lilacs that, in my mind, I can smell from here. At the top of the hill, holm oaks and scrub oaks provide sheltering shade. And all of these beauties assist my practice, be it yoga, prayer, or meditation, on and off the cushion.
Nature in her spring robes, this wild blend of colors in garden and community, brings joy and comfort to the application work of my mind to go beyond hopes, fears, emotions, grasping and ordinary anxieties. At this passage from another of my early Buddhist teachers, my heart is sad, but it is also filled with gratitude for the great fortune of having this connection to the lineage, the masters and the teachings. I am also grateful for my connection to the Buddhas – female, male and beyond gender – who nurture me each spring morning as I wake, eager to part the curtains and see what new colors burst to delight my eyes, my heart-mind, and my will to continue serving sentient beings through writing and teaching, cooking and cleaning. I am a tender of delicate things, a lover of the beauty of Mother Earth, inspired and nurtured by the Buddhadharma and by all those who help us find the sweet points of support in the landscapes of our own wild spirits.