The Heart Sutra is a “story”, a kind of “song” that is chanted by Buddhists of my Soto Zen lineage. I chant it in English and in Japanese (phonetically). My brother and I chanted it as our Mother died in Hospice – me on my knees at the right side of her bed, Billy on his knees at the left side. When in Hawaii last month, I chanted it quietly each night as I sat on my bed, looking out the open, west facing windows at the sea, the night sky and the lights of Kailua, Kona. I wept each time until the last two nights. As Hawaii healed me, I became more aware of parts of that Sutra.
In part of the Heart Sutra near the “end”, we chant about a dharani – “It completely ends all suffering, know this as truth and do not doubt, so set forth this profound wisdom dharani and declare, Gone, Gone Gone, to the other shore, attained the other shore, to beyond the other shore, having never left…”
I have led this chant a thousand times when I ran the Zen Center; I have chanted it thousands more times when I sat Zazen in the city and at the Tubac (AZ) Meditation Center. I know this Sutra.
But I did not know the “other shore” until I sang my mother to the other side then sat on another shore, strangely thinking about even another shore I wish to know…
Admittedly, my mind has been toggled and challenged in ways it has never known – but the cracking of the shell that encases my doubts, fears and comprehension has opened my heart again. I saw the loving couple (family of mine) who hosted my visit to the island and felt the rhythm of their lives spent helping each other (and helping me!) and I realized that a relationship really does have the possibility of working, of being based on compassion. The reasons that I would not fully believe such a thing are the relationships I have experienced myself and the sorrow of my parents’ lives.
Watching a couple who care about each other but do not smother each other gave me hope. And, since it has been years since I entrusted my heart to another (with the exception of the man I loved last year but never touched), I feel no urgent draw to “find love” – no need for a “Valentine” right now!! I just have a settled sense of the world being softer and brighter because I actually know love can happen, last and heal.
I wake up each morning to four precious dogs who adore me (and I them) and I waddle outside, half asleep at daybreak to feed seven loving horses who watch out for me and thank me with big neck hugs and slobbery kisses on the top of my head. I know love.
And I know how to love. One thing about this magical place called “Dharmahorse” is that all life matters. We have literally hundreds of bunnies here. There is a bunny I’ve known for 3 years now with a withered front leg and one with a mangled, but healed, face who I’ve known for 4 years – I sit with them and do Reiki for them.
We have a big bull snake and a younger one, 3 roadrunners, 6 hawks, 2 owls, at least 100 quail, 2 tarantulas, countless doves and prairie dogs, dung beetles, lizards and horned toads by the dozens. We are all safe here.
And the “tribe” of students, friends and even my ex’s (!) are a gathering of loving spirits, respectful of life.
“Attained the other shore, to beyond the other shore, having never left…” I get it. I think about a man on the other side of the world, at “another shore” and I have a place in my heart that belongs to him forever. And I think about Hawaii and my gratitude for how the Big Island welcomed me, wrapped me in love and healed a very broken person (me), my heart holds that other shore deep inside forever.
So, bulbs are pushing up through the earth here, trees budding, bunnies dancing a mating tango and horses shedding copious wads of hair (too early, I fear, but they likely know better than I do) – all signs point to a very welcomed spring! The warm sun feels good on my face. My backpack stills smells like Hawaii! I look through photos and remember every moment. And now it is time to make some good, new memories… to reboot this life and get riding again.
I have a little plan held deep inside my soul, a plan to travel more. There are other shores I need to sit upon. But, I will live every moment here fully as well. If I feel an overwhelming need to feel sand between my toes – I know where to go close by!
^ White Sands, New Mexico ^