On the path, off the trail

One of my favourite Gary Snyder essays from The Practice of the Wild, which has so many thoughtful gems from someone who has seen things off the trail, not least with the Beats, while forging his own compassionate path. The following quote is  also found in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s great practical book of advice for mindful meditation, Wherever You Go, There You Are. Both books are continual source of help, inspiration and reference. But this quote negates the egotism that anyone might attach to ‘practice’ – all actions can be mindful, this is an intrinsic quality we can bring to everything, not just daily sitting on the zafu:

All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher that the religious institutions originally worked with: reality.

Reality-insight says get a sense of immediate politics and history, get control of your own time; master the twenty-four hours. Do it well, without self pity. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road on the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One move is not better than the other, each can be quite boring, and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and ritual and their good results come in many forms. Changing the filter, wiping noses, going to meetings, picking up around the house, washing dishes, checking the dipstick – don’t let yourself think these are distracting you form more serious pursuits. Such a round of chores is not a set of difficulties we hope to escape from so that we may do our ‘practice’ which will put us on a ‘path’ it is our path.

This picture also reminds me a lot of my brother, it’s uncanny…