Sitting in beautiful conversation with an African-American Buddhist Nun who is a direct product of the civil rights era, I recognized just how alternatively I spend my days.
Sometimes I think in the momentum of my life I forget to pause and reflect on how beautiful of a road I have to navigate and how unusual it looks to many around me.
Venerable Dr. Pannavati and I have met before and I was quickly reminded of how she seems more like a Baptist preacher from the inner city than a Buddhist nun who spends her days teaching the dharma and beautiful wisdom of the Buddha.
Perhaps it’s because she was once a drama major and can sing like Diana Ross— or maybe it’s because she began her spiritual journey as a pastor in the Christian church— I can still feel the gospel within her. I can hear the cadence and rhythm as she talks and sings.
She has the deep soul of the church and it mesmerizes me.
I could share for hours how moved I was by this vibrant and possibly crazy hell-bent woman who clearly wants nothing more than to love the entire world… but she made one single statement that got to me:
We are so covered up we’ve lost our illuminosity.
I’ve spent my days since contemplating this, thinking of all the ways I’m covered up, how our society and child hood and life experiences cover us and what it takes to dig through it all to authentically illuminate.
I’m covered by materialism and ego, by a desire to be liked and recognized, by a need to fit in and either conform to or, alternatively, defy the status quo. I’m covered by occasional greed or fear of lack, sometimes covered by the distraction of abundance or the appearance of inadequacy. I’m covered with wounds of my past and with wisdom from perhaps too much exploration that confuses me until I remember to only hold on to what I need. My mind, left to it’s own devises, will run wild with delusion, covering up who I really am.
Our world seems covered with all the same things—we’ve taken to covering each other—we promote the very things that dim our true nature and it can seem at times like we celebrate blending in and honoring the darkness, hiding who we really are to an extent that we ourselves begin to forget.
Without diligent observation and practice, these things that cover us can suffocate the essential light the world needs most.
The world has perhaps never needed our real selves, our illuminosity, more than at this precarious moment and so I’ve been thinking about what it takes for me to uncover all that crap and set it aside to fully be who I desire to be and illuminate in every way possible in order to serve the world.
After careful consideration, I’ve narrowed it down to three steps I need to fully embrace and practice; meditation, wise action and compassion.
For each of us, these three things will look different and sound different, but the intention’s the same. I think to fully illuminate we must be up to some sort of inner cultivation, some spiritual path that leads us within to the parts of our true selves that the world really needs.
I’m certain for me that these three things are what it takes…. And all three must be done, one won’t get me anywhere… only in cooperation with each other do these tools assist me in finding my truest self.
Diligently practiced, committed to each day, with each breath, I think we finally arrive within ourselves to that sacred center that illuminates everything, where nothing is covered and authentic joy and deep global love consciousness resides.
As always, it works when we work it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard