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Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage

Month

May 2016

Red- the colour of blood

The sunshine carried delicious warmth to all the inhabitants of Federation Square on this delightful Autumn day. I had chosen to sit near two guys who I immediately imagined to  be friends. As I walked up to them from behind I thought they might be mates waiting to go to an event in the city.

It wasn’t until I was actually seated that I noticed one guy was not able to keep his eyes open and was possibly drug affected.  I stayed anyway and started to do the metta bhavana for both of them. The other guy was rocking slightly back and forth but was wide eyed and alert. After some time, when he glanced momentarily at me, I just smiled and said ‘hello.’

I could tell he was surprised to be spoken to so openly so we just sat on in silence a little more. Then, almost on cue, a small bird landed and we looked down simultaneously.

He began to converse with the bird apologising for not having food to offer. Slowly, very gently this man and I began to send sentences to each other. Mine were mainly open questions and his were a mixture of answers peppered with long rambles outlining his philosophy of life and reality.

He spoke so gently and so softly I had to shuffle up closer to hear him properly. We swapped names and I slowly let go of the need to understand everything he was saying.

Memories of my brother Michael rose in my mind/heart, in and out of the conversation. The smell of stale rollie cigarettes was so familiar to me from time spent in Michael’s flat over the years. Although its over 5 years since my brother’s death this communication brought him keenly into my consciousness.  Renewed gratitude to Michael arose for having made me learn ( sometimes kicking and screaming ) to remain open in situations like this.

Just being present with each offering from this man today, whether it was something I understood or not, was all  I had to do. My brother had unintentially taught me how to stay  in the face of confusion, madness and fear. And my time with him had consistently shown me that tenderness and care often will accompany you on these romps through others’ reality.

Anyway as a Buddhist, I had a growing interest in noticing how we together, construct our versions of reality and get lost in our own way, time and time again.

I opened my bag of buddhas and watched as my new acquaintance roamed across the buddhas on offer carefully examining them and telling me what he sensed about each one.

He said it was the bright crimson velvet lining the box of a certain little buddha that attracted him the most.  He told me that as red is the colour of blood it means connection.

His reasoning had as much to do with Reality as anything else I would talk about or do that day so I felt happy as I watched him very carefully hold this tiny Buddha.

We talked about how it represented the vast potential to be found in all living beings.

He said, “I hope it doesn’t get stolen , too.’

It was then that I learnt that his ‘mate’ sleeping sitting bolt upright right next to us was someone he met whilst sleeping in an alcove last night. These companions come and go and sitting together at Federation Square was better than sitting alone.

He told me how everything he ever had of value had been taken from him over the years.

So after giving him some money for some coffee, food or a rollie I headed home hoping this buddha would keep him company for a while.

 

Buddha a gift from Lynne B –  U.K.

 

 

A grey, rainy day in Melbourne

Recently I was given a little Buddha by someone who currently has some tough demons to fight off most days.
It is very moving and tender be the recipient of someone’s generosity when it takes place in the fabric of life circumstances which necessitate a focus around basic survival.
The potential for generosity and suffering to sit so closely together is a poignant aspect of the human condition that I witness often and find immensely beautiful.
She had heard about the Buddhas in my Pocket pilgrimage from others and before meeting me had specifically gone out looking for a Buddha to give me.  I accepted it gratefully and was curious as to whose hand it might end up in next. These little Buddhas seem to often magically find their own new home – my only job is to carry them about.
When we spoke again several days later I knew it was the perfect moment to ask her to choose something for herself from my bag of Buddhas.  I hadn’t initiated this sort of exchange before but it felt intuitively right.
Her eyes fell immediately on a small lotus charm. She had previously learned about the significance of lotus flowers whose beauty unfold with the help of nutrients from the mud. Clearly it was a perfect symbol for her life right now.  Wading through mud takes effort and can be so tiring!  It’s not always easy to look up and see the beauty emerging.

Anyone who met her could she how hard she was striving to understand and transcend the heavier conditions of her life and I’m sure they could also glimpse the flower that is her true nature.

Lotus charm a gift from Rachel, Melbourne.
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It was a week later when I went on my next pilgrimage walk to the city.
It was raining and Federation Square was deserted -nowhere dry to sit.

I was feeling sad about my parents’ recent situation of having to be apart after 62 years living together.
I wondered if I could muster enough heart energy to connect with anyone.
I walked for a while noticing how the rain had driven the homeless guys into alcoves. The fact that they had little communities was now more obvious than when they were begging alone.
I had chats with some of the guys but the sadness wrapped around my heart was a barrier to really connecting and being fully present.  It felt like a manufactured effort rather than the flow of just being with a fellow human being.
I realised I might go home without handing out a Buddha that day.
Before heading home I went into a store to buy my father some new slippers to take to him in the aged care facility that was his new home.
On the way out of the store I stopped to buy ‘The Big Issue ‘ from a guy standing by the door. His eyes were sad and hooded.
A grey, rainy day in Melbourne- he was just needing to sell his magazine so he could make enough to have shelter and  I was still having to make an effort to carry my sad heart around.  This didn’t feel like great conditions for connecting.
But as I opened up my purse to pay for the magazine, keeping the coins company was the little Buddha, given by my lotus charm friend from a week ago. I hadn’t put it in my Buddha bag with the others yet.
In that moment I discovered the great gift she gave me along with the little Buddha – a reminder that whatever I was feeling about my own situation it was always possible to move forward with generosity.
I felt my heart unfold in my chest, and smiling, I offered him her little Buddha.

He lifted his heavy eyelids and for the first time we really looked at each.
I told him a little about the donor of this Buddha and how it represented each individual’s vast potential.
He smiled and lifted up his Big Issue identity badge saying ‘ I’ve been beautiful once.’
On his badge was a beautiful woman with her head thrown back in joy and delight.
We stood in an alcove together and I heard her story about having arrived in Melbourne to continue transitioning to be the woman she always knew she was. She had once been a performer and lived a lovely life. But now wading through the mud of particular conditions the effort and money needed to keep presenting to the world as a woman fell to the bottom of the survival list.
We talked for ages and I enjoyed listening to her lively and articulate views on life.
She had clear observations and ideas about how charities could be doing better with helping the homeless. In essence, she wanted others to know that she could still contribute effectively to conversations around her own care even though she obviously needed support from others.  Our connection at that moment was a shared wish for every human being to be treated with respect and to have their potential acknowledged no matter how deeply they were in the mud.
So I left her with the little Buddha, given to me by the person who now has the lotus ,which was given generously by another  person…… and so it goes.
On a grey, rainy day in Melbourne an Indra’s Web of care and connection lifted the sadness momentarily and made me smile and feel fully alive again.
It was time to go and give my dear dad his new slippers.

IMG_4056

Buddha a gift from a new lotus friend 🙂

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Buddhas in my pocket

An Australian Buddhist Pilgrimage