Lately a lot of very mysterious things have been happening in my life.

Here is one example:

I’ve been studying meditation and Buddhism more seriously as of late. More on that later perhaps. Thursday night, I read this piece, ‘Flower Insights” by Thich Nhat Hanh. Here is the story:

There is a story about a flower which is well known in the Zen circles. One day the Buddha held up a flower in front of an audience of 1250 monks and nuns. He did not say anything for quite a long time. The audience was perfectly silent. Everyone seemed to be thinking hard, trying to see the meaning behind the Buddha’s gesture. Then, suddenly, the Buddha smiled. He smiled because someone in the audience smiled at him and at the flower. The name of the at monk was Mahakashyapa. He was the only person who smiled, and the Buddha smiled back and said, ” I have a treasure of insight, and I have transmitted it to Mahakashyapa.”

The story has been discussed by many generations of Zen students, and people continue to look for its meaning. To me the meaning is quite simple. When someone holds up a flower and shows it to you. He wants you to see it. If you keep thinking, you miss the flower. The person who was not thinking, who was just himself, was able to encounter the flower in depth, and he smiled. That is the problem of life. If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything. When a child presents himself to you with his smile, if you are not really there thinking about the future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems then the child is not really there for you. The technique of being alive is to go back to yourself in order for the child to appear like a marvelous reality. Then you can see him smile and you can embrace him in your arms.

On Friday morning, I got up early and headed out the door to meditate before work. On my way, I spied a lovely rose, still blooming in November. I took a picture & posted it on Facebook.A flower on the path

My day went on. I arrived at the meditation space, had a warm cup of chai, meditated, slipped into awareness practice for a long time absorbing the lessons for the day. Then I headed to work contemplating non-judgement, bliss, clarity, and freedom from useless thoughts. My chat with my cab driver was lovely. Everything was prettier somehow.  The sun was warm on my skin as I walked through the entrance doors into my office. I noticed a sticker on the door that, for some reason, said “Ben Franklin” and I smiled thinking about my good friend who likes to dress up as Ben Franklin and teach children about history. He is a sort of adopted father to me. As I walked along the halls in the office, even the big light globes overhead and the dings of the elevator bells seemed to send love and peaceful sensations to me – somehow. Riding the elevator, I looked up and saw that someone had etched “Love All” into the wood panel. I hadn’t seen it before. The day was productive and I finished all of my tasks.

I took the bus home but stopped first for food. I found myself sitting next to a man involved in politics actively and passionately campaigning to dismantle institutions and programs I care deeply about. I calmly engaged in a conversation with him and explained my perspective with examples, facts, and kindness. It was interesting. I am no stranger to arguing with people, but this time was different. I wasn’t angry at him. I wasn’t unclear. By the end of our conversation, he was giving me useful advice that he thought would help me convey my point of view more broadly to the public. I thanked him for his insight, wished him well, and walked home.

I arrived home late-ish to find my neighbor, Ms. Jackie, locked out and sitting on the stairs with a bunch of bags and cut flowers. Ms. Jackie is an older lady – a small woman, cautious but quick to laugh. She’s a church secretary, speaks with a comforting black dialect, and her hair is usually in a colorful wrap. In her spotless apartment, two doors down from me, there’s a well stocked liquor cabinet and an inviting sofa. She’s generally happy to share both with me. Her husband is in prison somewhere far away. His picture is up on the wall and she’s patiently waiting for his return. Seeing her predicament, I invited her inside my apartment to rest and warm up while she waited for our maintenance man Lamont to come. I’d been locked out myself just a few weeks ago. Neighbors make all the difference.  I opened a beer for myself and Jackie and we laughed, watched some comedy, discussed her grand-kids and hot-flash woes, etc. Lamont finally arrived with the keys, she went inside her apartment, and all was well.

A little while later, I heard a gentle knock at my door.
I opened the door and Jackie was standing in front of me holding a flower arrangement. It was not a gift for me – she brought it over just to show me. She was there, just holding it out to me with a shy smile. “I wanted you to see it, isn’t it pretty?” I couldn’t believe it. The words of the text came back to me. It was pretty, and I smiled and thanked her for showing it to me. I went inside and pondered this. Jackie was the beautiful one. Her genuine desire to share something beautiful with me, something she made, and then actually doing it – such a simple act of love. And making herself vulnerable too. A treasure of insight indeed.

She just wanted me to see it.

Who just comes over to show their neighbor a flower arrangement? Not give them flowers- just show them the flowers. Kids do that kind of thing.

Apparently Buddha does that kind of thing.

It just keeps happening- these sort of subtle and interesting and beautiful coincidences. Or, perhaps I just wasn’t seeing them before. And there’s more nuance- of course, that day I was wearing the only sweater I own with flowers on it. That morning, flowers appeared after meditation, there was the loveliest pink rose blooming outside on my way… I didn’t put it all together until Jackie was standing in front of me, holding out a flower.