Saturday, March 01, 2008
Cold Buddha Shivers ... and Smiles!
14 degrees in Burlington and it feels colder with a stiff breeze scaling the hill from the lake. The wind bites like a teething puppy. It's easy to mistake this attention as personal. "How dare you get in my face like this," the mind muses. The next morning the mercury stumbles out of bed, still half asleep at 12 degrees below zero. It was once thought that cold was a substance added to things like air and water. If cold is a substance it could slap us in the face. But, of course, cold isn't a substance. The air and water are the same as on a sunny summer day. It's all a matter of motion. Cold is slow, and if it gets really slow, like absolute zero slow (minus 273 degrees centigrade), some bizarre things start to happen (Bose-Einstein condensates). But I digress. Short of situations with a risk for hypothermia, we are free to approach cold in a more playful way. We can quiet the complaining mind and investigate how the cold actually feels. Not the concept of the cold, but the actual phenomenon of cold happening in the present. It was said that the hot Buddha sweats and the cold Buddha shivers. I would add that we can shiver with a smile. By making contact with the actual cold instead of the concept of cold, we can transform the experience from a difficult one into a pleasant or a neutral one. Equanimity from the Pali "upekkha" can also be translated as "interest." When we can bring a genuine and abiding interest to something we can also be even minded and alleviate suffering. The body is shivering and cold, and the mind is unaffected by this state of the body. With this sort of interest we relinquish expectations, agendas, and petty desires for comfort and ease. Today the mercury is soaring and the snow is melting. Hot Buddha sweats. The changing weather reminds us of impermanence, but that is a story for another day.