A member of our sangha is getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. At their suggestion I read a book called “I Promise Not to Suffer” by Gail D. Storey. She and her husband (a hospice and palliative care doctor) hiked the trail from the most southern boundary of California to Canada. The book is about their experience. Last week I quoted Dogen’s question “Is there anything missing or not?” On Tuesday we discussed how we can both have difficulties and feel a deep connection (nothing missing) with this life. In that spirit I offer this quotation from Gail Storey’s book.
“I have a hunger to hike the whole trail” , Porter (Gail’s husband asked her), “It’s been growing in me for years, intensified by the work with people living their dying. But what keeps you going?” [Gail writes] For once I was at a loss for words. What wanted me out here? Not my body, it was falling apart. Not my thoughts, alternately confident and doubtful. Certainly not my emotions, unreliable in their swings from high to low. I wanted to be with Porter, yes, but even more, I felt inseparable now from the vast green and blue and white of the wilderness. I looked out on the lake, shimmering under the moon. I was as sturdy as the trees. I flowed over obstacles like water over rocks. I was as solid as the mountains, as clear as the sky. The wind blew through my heart. I was what knew the wind. What knew the world was here in me, pulsing in the trees, water, rocks, mountains, moon.
Dogen’s experience and Gail Storey’s experience are the direct actualization of buddha nature. We and all beings make the world, are the world, are essentially the same. She knew the true of this, at the moment, of her saying it. It didn’t change her tired body, or her confused mind. But, it did completely change her experience as a life lived. It is her life, living her life, with all beings: trees, water, rocks, mountains, moon and that of her husband Porter, the reader and everything seen and unseen. She carried this awakening mind even after she left the trail because her body was not strong enough to continue. In the midst of her suffering; she carries a deep connection. This family tie with life shifts the paradigm of how we think about our problems. This is one of the things we are trying to understand in Buddhist practice.
Best wishes, Shinshu