On New Year’s Eve, I received a package from my sister Mary. It contained a tiny silver Buddha, smiling delightfully, thumbs-up. According to the box, his name is Syd. The card that came with him said, “Silver opens the mind and lights the way forward. It is reflection, insight and wisdom.” I held the tiny silver Buddha in my hand and was immediately smitten.
These are overwhelming days, loaded with uncertainty, fear and worry. As I’ve articulated in previous posts, our collective psyche has been burdened with a gnawing malaise. We’re moving through our days with a sense of foreboding and a bottomless grief for the country we thought we knew. And as we struggle to get our bearings, the surreal tribulation grows increasingly bewildering. Our future is in the hands of a narcissistic sociopath with a Twitter account and a salivating assembly of minions, more than happy to do his bidding. This stark reality only serves to intensifies personal hardships and afflictions of the soul.
I keep trying to bolster myself, to somehow will myself to a state of transcendence. I overthink, struggling to find some far-reaching plan to save myself and others. There are just so many egregious provocations to navigate. It’s like everything is on fire and I can’t find water for the suffocating smoke. Sometimes when we bear a heavy load, we become the heavy load.
But then- a tiny silver Buddha, thumbs up.
He sits on the coffee table in my living room. Whenever I look at him, I feel a little more like myself. He is there, smiling up at me, and I am lighter. It occurs to me that maybe a spark is enough. Perhaps all we need for now is a minuscule flicker and the simple whimsy of life smiling back at us.
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a degenerative illness that will ultimately cause his early demise. With the diagnosis, he says, everything became very clear. He says he is “cutting out the bullshit” and focusing on what is real for him. I too have experienced that clarity. When my baby died, almost 25 years ago, I was stripped completely. I’ve never been more devastatingly vulnerable, nor have I been more exquisitely spacious. And one thing I recall about that period was simplicity. It was all I had really.
A tiny silver Buddha, thumbs up.
We don’t have to figure it all out right now– be it the remedy for our own despair or the precise path for the resistance – to remember who we are. If we can find just that little bit…that tiny silver Buddha with thumbs up…then we can be okay, at least for today. And we don’t have to look very far.
A wink, a playful pause, a chuckle…and then another.
We can be okay with the unknown.
We can meet the people we love where they are.
We can be afraid, calm and ready for whatever happens next.
Tiny silver Buddha, thumbs up.
“Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
“She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh