Early evening on a perfect, cloudless summer day. Temperature warm but not stiflingly hot. The evening meal over, I’m sitting on the back deck in the comfortable zero gravity chair that my husband bought me to make my recovery from surgery more enjoyable. Well, lying on it, actually – this thing reclines beautifully, and it’s so comfortable that I think I could probably sleep on it.
Setting aside my book, I gaze around me, at the branches of our ancient cherry tree hovering protectively over the edge of the deck, providing shade and shelter for birds and small animals alike in its branches; the evergreens, planted so many years ago, that shield this private, fenced-in area from view; and spanning the outer edge of the deck, the long, low bench that my husband built for me because I often like to meditate out on the deck of a morning in the shade of that old cherry tree.
I watch my husband – this good, generous, loving man – limping slightly as he heads into the house after a long day of cutting branches and trimming the hedge; this man who, a year ago, could barely move around, months after spinal surgery and several mini-strokes, and whose mind the soup of prescribed medications had forced into a mushiness that he hated.
Over time, alterations in his medication and good physiotherapy have wrought changes that I – and certainly he – had never dared to hope for. I look at him and think that maybe, just maybe, we might have more good years together than we had originally thought.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, I’m filled with gratitude that pierces my heart and brings tears to my eyes; thankfulness for the scraggly, beautiful old cherry tree that stays alive, putting out leaves many years after its nominal “due date” – maybe because I love it so much; for the stunning, luscious beauty of all the different greens in the scenery of our ordinary back yard; for the chipmunk who visits us in the morning for peanuts and makes us laugh; but most of all for the man whose love has been my mainstay for nearly half a century, and whose gifts to me surround and fill my life.
Religions argue with each other, debate areas of contention, fight wars with each other, disdain each other, claim that they’re the only way to get to the beyond. Even Amidists argue, splitting hairs over whether Amida Buddha was a real man some incalculably long time ago, or whether he is simply a construct, a symbol of what the pure land offers. I have been struggling for so long to come to some kind of understanding that fits my life and my experiences.
But in this moment of joy and thankfulness, all I know is that I’m grateful to whatever is out there, whatever its true name may be; and I call out from the fullness of my heart, “Thank You!” “Thank You!”
I call out to the Lord God, to Yahweh, to Amida Buddha, to Allah, to the Great Spirit…the Collective Unconscious – the universe, in whatever guise it takes on for our puny human minds to play with.
Because I know, deep down, that somehow this prayer of the heart will be heard – no matter what I aim it to, or what belief system I choose to follow – by whatever consciousness governs the Great Beyond. Because I am a part of it all, and my little voice is part of the great voice of the universe.
And as I love, so I am loved.
Namo Amida Bu,