Lesson:  Never Wander Into the Marketplace

After a Silent Retreat.

Or During.  Which Is What I Just Did.

Copyright©2018 by Alice Walker

 

Perplexed by signs for “bookstore” and finding none, I wandered once again down the path beside the new community building.  I saw folks going in. I had wondered about the lineup of small Buddhas outside the building.  Of course! The bookstore and market!  In I went. Not thinking this was not wise to do on day five of a weeklong silent retreat.

I found so many lovely things inside!  Spring’s book!  Larry’s book!  Prayer flags!  So many lovely things – and of course I chose many!

But then I looked in vain for a salesperson.  None appeared! I went here and there!

Finally I realized there was – this being the up to date commercial age- no sales person! I saw the instructions for how to pay for my purchases by myself.  I found them extremely complicated.  My spaciness?  Yes, but also, my kind of mind. Not good with gadgets and especially intimidated by financial questions and the tapping of machines to “wake them up” at nine o’clock in the morning!

Oh, I tried! And I am glad I made the effort. At least I was not defeated without some attempt to comprehend the machine. To its credit (no pun) it’s written message said plainly: “I prefer cash and checks.” Forgetting I had cash, though no checks, I endeavored the plastic route.  No dice.  I was royally frustrated within minutes!

I decided to save myself complete meltdown and wrote a note (hopefully) to management:  “This is too complicated by far.  Where is the humanity in this? (Envisioning marketplaces in other parts of the world with kids and their grandparents and maybe even a goat or two around.)  Or the sales, for that matter?” – I signed, and left all my lovely, would -be purchases on the counter.

Came up the hill to meditation in something of a huff.  Went straight to the Forgiveness dharma talk by Larry Yang in which he seemed to have watched the entire situation in the bookstore. Especially my somewhat sour (I bet!) glance at the smiling woman at the entrance of the building.  Poor thing!  What clue could she have had?

Anyway, a teaching about exchanging self for other.  In other words, lighten up, not tighten up! And don’t go shopping in the middle of a silent retreat!

***

This was all settled beautifully of course.  As I was leaving the retreat with a friend she suggested we go inside the bookstore and re-select my would-be purchases. She was handy handling machines, she said.  Her interaction with post- modernity up to date! In fact, they were all still on the counter, just where I left them! I bought two copies of Spring Washam’s amazing book, A Fierce Heart, and two of Larry Yang’s bedrock of a Buddhist book for communities of color: Awakening Together: the Spiritual Practice of Inclusivity and Community.  I got my Tibetan prayer flags, because by now all my old flags are gray and torn, literally shredded by the wind.

The book I hadn’t expected to carry me off, that I bought mainly because I love Taoist poetry, is beside me now as I type:  The Activist’s Tao Te Ching:  Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution  by William Martin.  Rarely has a book touched so directly the places this revolutionary and poet needed, these days, to be touched.

Listen to this:

Silence 

Noise confounds our leaders.
They don’t know what to do.
Scurrying this way, then that,
they never find the silent Tao
within.
If they could find that silence,
the country would transform itself.
Simplicity and freedom from desire
would become the natural way,
and destructive habits would fall away,
replaced by patient compassion for all life.

Leaders will never find that silence while serving the current system.  Since dollars have become speech, the noise has overwhelmed all possibility of silence. No one in leadership has ears to hear the quiet among the cacophony of special interests. New systems must be founded on a stillness, a serenity where decisions can be considered from a place of wisdom, not from urgency or expediency.  Of course, we can’t form such systems until we find a silent place within ourselves.

-William Martin

 

Shopping while pursuing peace definitely interferes with finding this silent place. -AW

 

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