There is a thin pink streak of light in the eastern sky. The sun is well over the horizon and that last thread of colour tells me what a glorious sunrise I would have seen if I had been up a little earlier.
The valley is heavy with mist; a few hilltops and the tips of the tallest trees stand above the almost liquid fog. A little closer to me the fields and gardens I can see are covered with a heavy frost. Not for the first time I can understand why C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to come walking here.
There is something magical about a morning like this one. Looking out to this view gives me a sense of a much bigger world, a world beyond my own concerns and even a world even beyond what I can see outside. Somehow the mist which covers up what is there gives my imagination the space to image what isn’t there too.
It is me looking out into this magical scene: me with my ordinary body that aches in the cold and complains when I eat too much at Christmas, and my ordinary mind that takes selfish concerns and makes them into the whole of the world.
And I am living with ordinary people. Although we live in a space which inspires us to connect with something greater (and I am sure that tempers the selfishness) each of us carries our own concerns and dysfunctions with us.
When I first moved into a Buddhist community nearly 10 years ago I remember imagining that I could leave of all my baggage at the door. Just by stepping over the threshold I thought I could become someone new.
I have become someone new – but that process was fuelled by all of the baggage (excuse the mixed metaphor) rather than despite it.
As we move into the New Year it feels important to me to remember both halves of this picture: the beautiful magical landscape and also the ordinary human beings that live within it.
It is all too easy to forget how beautiful the world is. We create our own suffering and our selfishness bumps up against other people’s and then turns in on itself again.
It can be easy to make the same mistake in the other direction as well. To only see the ideal and become blind to the suffering of ourselves and others in case it disturbs the sense of peace we have gazing at the landscape. This is another form of selfishness, harder to see, but equally problematic as what we don’t see piles up and eventually comes tumbling down on us much more heavily than if we had paid attention to it sooner.
I will make a resolution to keep the beautiful landscape in the corner of my eye, to sometimes gaze at it with both eyes, and also to see the ordinary foolish beings (myself included) inhabiting this landscape. It is from the relationship between the two that compassion appears.
This post also appeared on the Amida Mandala website