There are things that melt me like butter on a hot griddle -- things that just get through whatever emotional or intellectual nets I may lay out. A smile can do it. Or, as this morning, a brief out-of-the-blue note from someone interested in Buddhism, a topic on which I can be pretty wary.
The note said:
Hi, I was looking up Buddhist sanctuaries and meeting places online and I came across your website. I have just currently began reading and practicing the Buddhist philosophies including Zazen. I was looking for some guidance in the mind training, suggested books to look into, or monks who meet one on one with you to talk about your personal experience. I was also interested in your class on Sundays. I would just like a little bit more knowledge on the subject and some personal advice on certain negative things in my life. Thank you.
Very simple and pretty ordinary all in all. And yet the implications seemed to sift through my nets ... a human being, sniffing the winds around her like some dog with its head out the front window of a passing car, open, uncertain and aching in some large or small way... looking for relief or release or peace or something like that.
I sent a note in return -- nothing spectacular, just friendly.
As much as I may see and know the flaws of something I have been involved with for some years, still I cannot withhold my willingness and even desire to lend a hand to straight-forward (as distinct from manipulative) requests such as I imagined the note to represent.
It is a distinction I would probably do well to release, but for the moment, there it is: People really do hurt and really don't quite know which way to turn and I am willing to lay out what I know of the Buddhist option ... not for Buddhism or for holiness or for the head-swelling virtue that may arise later in Buddhist practice ... but just because people hurt and hurting is no fun. Later on, once the practice has gained some traction, there can be just as many hurts ... but by that time, they are dutifully swathed in what sounds good from a Buddhist perspective.
But the lines between straight-forward, manipulative and insane are sometimes gossamer-thin.
Oh well, I'm not quite sure what I am saying here ... probably just that some things strike me as credible and compelling and others don't.