“Who am I?” That’s the first question on my pre-retreat contemplations with my Sangha.
Of course, I know the right, enlightened, Buddhist answer: “I am the unique manifestation of continuous presence, impermanent, consisting of self- and non-self elements, interdependent with all other beings and non-beings. I am the wave that knows it has been water all along.
That’s the answer in the ultimate dimension.
The answer in the historic dimension is that I am Elly van Laar, a Dutch 49-years old woman living in Austin, married to David Nayer, who works with kids and grown-ups on self-compassion and empathy, and loves her family, friends, birds, animals, flowers, trees and plants and hiking and meditating. She also likes fruit, vegetables, and nuts and talking, listening and reading.
That answer seems more true. I have a strong sense of Elly-ness, even though I ponder about the non-self ellyments (little pun) in me, such as the apple and grapefruit I just ate.
Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of the Buddha playing hide and seek. Sometimes the Buddha shows up as the golden leaf, sometimes as the rose bud, sometimes as your neighbor, a car, a new teacher. But he is always here, available in this moment. Because he is a manifestation of the ever present life source that this universe is made up of.
Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen door, the thought flashed through my head “This door consists of a Jesus-element”. And then, as I was cleaning the doorknob “This doorknob consists of a Buddha-element”. And then -all of a sudden- I’m thinking “I consist of a tree-element”. The insight struck me very viscerally. Just briefly, then it evaporated.
In that split-second I had a glimpse of understanding of my true nature.
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