It's been real cold lately and my family has been hunkering down in our family room next to the fireplace. My kids vacillate between reading, drawing, playing with our new puppy, and watching a show called Good Luck Charlie. If you haven't seen it, GLC is very well done, about a wacky family named the Duncans.
When it's on, I can't help but watch because the characters are so well drawn and the story lines are so funny. This morning there was an episode on where Gabe, the middle child--a devilish, yet lovable little monster--is obsessing over winning one of those arcade claw games. His goal is the mythical Mystery Box, whose contents are...well, legendary. Rumor has it that some kid won one and found a mp3 player inside.
Eventually Gabe spends all of his arcade tokens trying to win the box, and even gets his arm stuck in the prize slot.
It's the dream of the Mystery Box--its utter unknowability--that entices him. He can't let go of the dream to open it because his imagination keeps teasing him with the possibilities. Mp3 player? Gold necklace? Treasure map?
"It's probably just something silly, like a whistle," his dad cautions.
Good advice. The stuff of reality seldom lives up to the mythic proportions we assign things in our imaginations. We strive for the perfect job--becoming a writer perhaps--only to soon learn that it is a job like any other. All job have their ups and downs.
We strive for the perfect car, partner, body, only to learn that none of these things satisfy us. Sometimes we even leap from one spiritual practice to another, as if the "answer" is just around the next bend in the spiritual bazaar. It's all symptomatic of the same dilemma--our insistence that we lack something, and that we will only be whole when we find it "out there."
Yet, the only mystery that can satisfy us is the Great Mystery. The realization that we are complete and whole, lacking nothing.
Introspection, gazing inwards at the limitless space inside of ourselves, witnessing the endless mystery of our existence, that is the only practice that can leave us lastingly fulfilled. In Zen, we call that "Tracing back the radiance"--seeing our true nature. But we needn't practice Zen to get there. Zen is one path among many.
The process of inquiry is what's important, not what we call it or whose name is on the road.
Then everything is revealed to be the Mystery too!
I was outside last night with the dog and it was snowing--light, puffy snowflakes. I looked up at the sky and tried to catch some snow in my mouth. There was no profound dropping off of body and mind as sometimes is the case in Buddhist lore. Just the snow falling and my dog peeing.
But it was Just So. And that was good enough. Everything is the Mystery--snow, dog pee, and all.