The Big Delicious
A belated blog from my recent trip to New York…
It is a crisp autumn day in the Big Apple of New York, and I am wandering the streets doing metta practice and grinning at the miracle of it all. Lots of people are smiling, and it’s a dazzling mix of dog walkers, street vendors, shoppers, tourists, business people, hard boiled cabbies, and fashionistas all intersecting in this moving dance. New York is a 100 story beehive added to over centuries, and weaves together walls of gleaming plate glass, fiber optic internet cables, trash trucks, underground aquifers, side street urban forests, preschool children holding hands, construction cranes, pastrami deliveries to 10,000 deli’s, banks, birthing centers and morgues into a mysterious collaboration of interbeing, powered by human imagination and for the most part, surprising goodwill. A space alien would be amazed at the complexity and generosity that holds it all.
In the midst of it all on 63rd Street I just taught a weekend at the Ethical Culture Society with Mark Epstein on the complementary blessings of Eastern and Western psychology. Almost 600 participants, many healers and therapists listened as Mark told the story of Patachara, a woman overwhelmed with grief after the loss of her whole family. Weeping inconsolably she went to see the Buddha who had his attendant place the Buddha’s own cloak around her shoulders, as he began to teach and comfort her. Then Mark described how as therapists and healers we too can offer the cloak of compassion, and the kind attention of mindfulness to those who come to us. And how as dharma practitioners we can learn to place the compassionate cloak of the Buddha around our own shoulders as we sit.
With compassion as a theme, the next evening on Central Park’s Great Lawn 25,000 fans gathered for the Global Citizen Festival. Neil Young, the Foo Fighters and The Black Keys played music so wonderful and loud, with amplifiers so big, that the base lines and drums echoed off the tall buildings ringing the Park, beating like a huge heart in the center of the city. A warm night held the concert and thousands contributed to end polio in Pakistan, feed children in Latin America, build schools for everyone in Africa. It was a celebration of goodwill, and the New York spirit and the reality that in spite of the global problems we face, most everyone wants a better, more humane, compassionate world.
“Compassion is natural” taught the Buddha. Wherever you are on this dazzling earth today, regard yourself and all that is around with eyes of wonder and a heart of compassion. This is called the Dharma blessing here and now.