The Thai have this delightful habit of erecting small shrines in the middle of daily life.
They pop up everywhere-as evidenced from the picture, which was taken at the Chatuchak market in Bangkok. In each case they serve as a reminder that I am surrounded by the sacred everywhere I go, and no matter where I find myself. Because everything is sacred- every single thing- every single moment and circumstance and conjunction of events.
It's nearly impossible for us to understand this in our ordinary state, especially when something truly horrific happens. It takes the genius of a Viktor Frankl ("Man's Search for Meaning") or the spiritual depth of a Meister Eckart to help us gain insight into how even the worst events are sacred.
Still, most of us can recall some event in life where something that started out appearing as awfully bad eventually turned out to be very good. Not only that, all of us are familiar with the paradigm of the hero, who can never be tested and proven without the trials he faces.
The Thai practice reminds me that I don't need to just focus on peaks and valleys. This ordinary life, all of the mundane aspects I encounter in a day- each one of them is extraordinary. There isn't anything ordinary, in fact- the simplest, dumbest things are imbued with a hidden grace. Only by breathing my life in and out can I begin to get a sense of this. The entire universe is an expression of sublime and extraordinary divinity.
Even cigarette butts in the gutter are part of this immense and awe-inspiring event called creation. The fact that we have trivialized them (or anything) by using them, discarding them, and then defining them as worthless makes no difference to the universe. They still have the inherent value they began with as cosmic substances. The atoms they are made up of, forged in the furnaces of stars, are every bit as miraculous as they were before we puffed them into a conglomeration of tar-soaked dead leaves and and ash.
How like this thing called consciousness! No matter how battered and abused, it nurses a spark that simply cannot be extinguished. Even if, in this particular life, it appears to be corrupted and defeated, the essential inner light of Truth which comes from the heart cannot be destroyed.
It's hard to remember that when we meet our life with the inevitable mass of definitions and dismissals we are filled with by what we call "education" and a habitual disinterest born from years of overstimulation. We forget that this daily life is that daily bread Christ advised us to pray for. Each and every impression of life is a food to be grateful for.
I found, when I was younger and rowed boats more frequently, that rowing seemed monotonous and tedious- unless I invested myself in the rythym and forgot about the destination. It was in the physical experience that I learned to appreciate every pull of the oar for the pulling itself.
Dwelling within the moment shrinks the distance between the heart and the object of its wish.
It is within this world of small, ordinary things that I discover a universe.