Dear Sangha brothers and sisters,
Images and metaphors are a hugely important source of joy and learning in my practice. Some are widely used; others feel deeply personal. I love the way they often surprise me—jumping right out of the moment or welling up in the course of a sit. Some of these images become regular visitors. And so it is with “The Buddha Channel.”
Here’s how it all began. I was sitting on the couch with TV remote control in hand, hoping to find something I wanted to see. The next thing I knew I was actually watching myself, noting how very eager I was for distraction, escape, entertainment. Changing channels began to feel like a futile waste of time. It’s not as if I had just finished work at a construction site or a double shift at the hospital. I wasn’t exhausted or even weary. I just needed. . .what exactly? I needed things to be other than they were.
At some level, a question formed: How is this working for me? Have I chosen the couch? Is this what I want my life—this precious moment—to be? The remote control was in my hand. What if I chose to tune in to the Buddha Channel? The idea caused a smile from ear to ear.
What might have been a harsh reproach didn’t feel harsh. In fact, it felt kind, gentle, funny—just a sweet reminder that life could be different, that it was possible to live from a different center, that there was an alternative. The tone of voice was new, but not unfamiliar. It seemed that my lovingkindness meditation had inserted itself into my evening.
Over time, the Buddha Channel has become personal shorthand for my experience of mindfulness—the realization that all is exactly as it should be. It’s the visceral experience of peace and ease, calming and energizing at the same time. And best of all, it’s nothing special.
Do imagery and metaphor help you connect your formal practice with everyday life? Do you experience your own Buddha Channel? What are the some of the images, poems, songs that especially speak to you? I look forward to our sharing.
I’ve shared below my short poem, “The Buddha Channel.” Like all my poems, it makes me laugh and causes me to remember. It’s a joy and an honor to share one with you. In a certain sense, we’ve written them all together. I’ve also shared a short excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh on the joy and the importance of making art.
Mary Beth Hatem
Follow Mitchell’s blog as he travels to Scotland and Plum Village here.
The Buddha Channel
It’s all the rage
Me? I watch
the Buddha Channel
alter the volume
by remote control
eat popped corn from
my special bowl
rely on commercials for
When the time comes
to rise from the couch
I move with such
grace, such ease
the balls of my feet
caress the plush carpet
the hardwood floor
the tips of my toes
plant kiss after
kiss on rich
Mary Beth Hatem
Thich Nhat Hanh on growing vegetables and making art from "Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life’s Burning Questions"
By living your life, by producing works of art, you contribute to the work of the collective awakening of our people. . . . The artist, the actor, the filmmaker, the novelist may be inspired by a desire to become a bodhisattva, helping with the awakening of the people, helping them to touch the seed of joy, of peace, of happiness in themselves, helping them to remove and transform the seeds of discrimination and fear and craving. The artist can do all this. If you are motivated by that desire, you will have so much joy and energy that fame and power will not appeal to you anymore. Nothing can be compared with that kind of joy, knowing that your life on Earth is beautiful and is helpful.
One day in New York City I met a Buddhist scholar and I told her about my practice of mindfulness in the vegetable garden. I enjoy growing lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables and I like to spend time gardening every day. She said, ‘You shouldn’t spend your time growing vegetables. You should spend more time writing poems. Your poems are so beautiful. Everyone can grow lettuce, but not everyone can write poems like you do." I told her, "If I don’t grow lettuce, I can’t write poems."
When I’m taking care of the lettuce or watering my garden I don’t think of poetry or writing. I focus my mind entirely on taking care of the lettuce, watering the vegetables and so on. I enjoy every moment and I do it in a mode of "non-thinking." It’s very helpful to stop the thinking. Your art is conceived in the depths of your consciousness while you’re not thinking about it. The moment when you express it is only a moment of birth, the moment you deliver the baby. For me, there must be moments when you allow the child inside you to grow, so you can do your best and your masterpiece can contain insight, understanding, and compassion.
A work of art can help people understand the nature of their suffering and have insight into how to transform the negative and to develop the positive in themselves. Writing, making a film, creating a work of art can be an act of love. That act of love nourishes you and nourishes others. If you’re happy, if you know how to live deeply every moment of your life, then deep understanding, joy, and compassion can come. Your art will reflect this understanding and will share it with others.