Making Room for a Sneeze (written 2014)
It's difficult to imagine being happier than I am this morning. This is the kind of serene and contented calm that speaks clearly in my mind : “This is perfect as it is.” It is easy for me to begin the stories that explain it in terms of the externals: a wonderful night's sleep, no aching in the body beyond a pleasant “echo” of yesterday's long hours of sitting, a cool and delicious breeze coming in at the tiny window beside me while the air in my room is warm and cozy. I have a huge mug of English Breakfast tea and nearly an hour of solitude before first sit this morning. Pen and paper. A soft blanket spread on the floor for yoga when I finish this writing and the possibility of a walk in the birdsong, wet grass and morning mist. Indeed, I think this blissful state is so pleasureable that conditioned mind has always attributed it to conditions: retreat = happiness.
This morning it is ridiculously easy, suddenly, to see this mistake. Mind is still. Here, in this clear and natural state is the freedom from dukkha I seek. On retreat I sink into it. Retreat gives me space but it is not the immediate cause of the deep happiness I find. That, I carry with me. On retreat I am able to clear away the debris that masks it.
A favorite book I'd read to the boys when they were small was called “No Room for a Sneeze” and it comes to mind for me now. The harried farmer and his wife who take in their animals, parents, and all manner of beings and things till their home is cluttered and full and uncomfortable and everyone irritable and anxious and they blame it all on this tiny home where there is “no room for a sneeze”. Of course, as they clear it out and the space emerges, their smiles and good humor return and the little hut is perfect and spacious. Like our minds, our life.
All the clutter of cares, opinions, possessions and plans, the gotta-do lists and schedules. And the mind is soon an irritable and anxious mess. On retreat we clear this out. Ahhhh! I think this morning. Not the externals but the internals. And I knew this. I knew this intellectually. I've had other “eureka-style” glimpses over the years.
This morning the insight is in my bones. All things are impermanent, I laugh to myself. Don't hold this tight. Don't make it another “possession”. Let it rest in that open space the mind has become this morning. Look into that clear, cool pool while it is still and don't try to stop the waves that will come. Inevitably. Only enjoy this and know it fully. Be here. The neural pathway is there now. It will be easier to clear it and walk it next time.