Takiyasha The Witch And The Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Ahhhh, the demons that drive us....
After years of Buddhist practice, I've come to recognize some of the signs of being driven by conditioned habit and the demon aggregates that form this sentient being called ME!
I recall as a two year old, being aware of ME hopping onto the wild demon horse and grabbing the reigns, even as the world around ME taught other lessons that caused suffering and aversion, ignorance and greed. But ME had tricks up her sleeve...and here she sits, still stubbornly thinking that the world owes her something.
Fortunately, these days bring ME into a compassionate focus, and there is sometimes space to simply be, and the demon horse doesn't need to be raced or whipped into a frenzy.
Yes, still there, always there, but integrated, little by little.
Most of us can recall pivotal moments, whether as small children, young teenagers or adults, when ME rides the demon horse into the sleepy village and tramples everything in sight in its quest for control. Even as we watch horrified at our terrorizing, we continue, consumed.
We begin to recognize that delusions come in all shapes and sizes, and are as endless as waves on the ocean.
If we are parents, we certainly know all about the ME that resides in that beautiful little toddler who looks at us sweetly as she pours her orange juice on the floor, dances in the puddle, takes her brother's juice, and then cries indignantly when it is gone.
More, More, More, and, oh by the way, please love me unconditionally!
I left work late one afternoon this week, just so tired and consumed with the everyday work world of responsibility and toil, feeling like a beast of burden.
In other words, tired, sure, who isn't tired after a long day of work, but also feeling quite sorry for myself!
In such a state, I often believe I need a serious treat as reward for getting through the day.
I pulled into the local coffee shop to order my favorite warm, milky drink, (yes, just like ordering Mommy), and added a slice of cake that hits all the sweet notes of childhood longing--lemony, spongey, iced thickly on one edge with sugar, cut perfectly and packed into a neat bag, that again, reminds me of the bags in which my mother once packed school lunch.
And all handed over lovingly by a smiling young person who took my money in exchange for comfort.
And even as I took the comfort, a little voice asked, What is this? And ME answered, "Go away! I want!"
I parked the car and nipped into my snack.
But a snack like this is never really a snack to satisfy belly hunger....after a bite and a sip, I realized it was all my belly wanted, so who wanted more?
Ravenously, ME consumed the snack, until midway through the coffee, I opened the car door and poured the coffee onto the blacktop....scenes of the toddler turning her Sippy Cup upside down came to mind, and I started to laugh.
With my Sippy Cup empty, and a belly ache developing due to that brick of sugar, compassion said out loud,
"Who is hungry? What are you hungry for?"
The answer came very quickly: "I just want a pat on the back! I just want to be recognized for the work I've done today! My heart is hungry!"
Ahhhhh, sometimes the answer is not far.
I sat for a moment folding the snack bag into a tiny orgami square, until it could no longer be folded.
It was actually very beautiful and I placed the square into my pocket.
Drove home, hugged my husband for a long time, aware of our chest and belly and shoulders connecting, arms around his back and his around mine, resting my chin on his shoulder.
Hugged the dog and held his heartbeat beneath my palm, my head pressed to his, receiving his Bodhisattva blessing.
Picked up one of the cats and nuzzled her into my chest, then looked at her closed love eyes while her purr-chant vibrated lovingly within my ribcage.
I ended the day offering incense and in meditation.
Thanked my lucky stars for this precious birth, for my teachers past and present, who are as patient as the stars in the sky and who ask for nothing more than that I wake up, and for a practice that asks continually, What is this? and then stands back as the answer is realized, having always been present, nowhere but here!