Friday, September 22, 2023

It's Enough

I just heard a story about a Zen teacher stopping a student passing in the hall and saying, “You know, just to be alive is enough.”


It is a Buddhist tenet that achieving a human incarnation is already a victory of sorts. Which makes it all the more distressing when people squander it. According to the idea of reincarnation, we should be glad we’re not a mosquito about to be swatted or a rat digging through garbage. We have the possibility of an elegant body, a feeling heart, a thinking mind. And yet we lie on the couch drinking bad beer playing mindless video games. 


For “just being alive to be enough,” we have to have some measure of gratitude for the opportunity of a human birth, some measure of determination to accept its gifts gracefully and consciously, some sense of awareness of how precious it is indeed just to breath in and breathe out and be granted the chance to fully savor each moment of our mortal life. 


And so, the senses. The taste of a fresh early-girl tomato, a cool breeze on your skin on a hot day, the smell of early morning coffee or fresh-baked bread, a touch from a loved one or a hug from a child, the sight of aspen leaves dancing in the wind, the song of the red-wing blackbird. Enough.


The body. The thrill of running across a field like a child, the grace of a three-point basketball shot, the sweet exhaustion of a 20 mile bike ride, the joyful release of dancing to Uptown Funk, the harmonious gathering of concentrated energy sitting in the full-lotus meditation posture. Enough. 


Not to mention sex. 


Then the landscape of the heart. Its cozy warm places watching an old favorite movie on the couch eating popcorn, its lifting up with the ascending phrases in Bach’s Mass in B Minor, its burrowing into the depth of John Coltrane’s saxophone. Its tenderness rocking the sleeping infant in your arms, its burst of excitement when meeting the love of your life, 


The mind’s pleasures as well. Solving the puzzle, connecting the dots of historical narrative, the thrill of writing coherent sentences, the power of understanding how things work. The “a-ha!” when a felt intuition finds the right language to become consciously known fact.


Yes, the sense can be assaulted and overloaded, the body prone to pain and gravity’s tugs, the heart broken over and over again, the mind confused and anxious and puzzled. It’s all part of the package when you’ve signed up for the human comedy and tragedy. But throughout it all, inside of it all, transcending it all, is the human spirit that has lived well enough that it can finally proclaim in all sincerity:


“Just to be alive is enough.”


Take those six words with you as you step out into the world today. 



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