After spending the summer living and working at the Shambhala Mountain Center. I didn’t get a chance to return for three months after I left. Quite longer than I would have liked. As the home of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya monument, the Center carries a special significance unlike most other Buddhist sacred spots in the western hemisphere. Upon returning in November I immediately felt that familiar sacred energy that this blessed place holds. Though the numerous deer and other wildlife that normally roam with calm freedom throughout the 600 acre property were not out at that time of year, a sense of peace still presented itself through the serene autumn breeze gently rustling through the quiet mountainous landscape of grassy fields, sagebrush and pine trees.
After the short pilgrimage uphill to the Stupa, I entered, inhaling the sweet smell of incense burning in the air—someone must have just left before I got there. Feeling deep reverence for the Buddha statue, I bowed a few times and sat front centre, directly in line with the Buddha’s gaze. My meditations started with intense memories of my time there, both in the Stupa and in my life in general at the Center. I felt the Buddha’s earliest lessons from the summer pour back into me as reminders. My gratitude to this special symbol increased substantially as I remembered these teachings. As I was catching the various thoughts floating through my head I quickly contemplated them for the lessons they provided, but decided to put them away, reflecting instead on the greater lessons I gained since leaving the Center. I felt a sense of pride stir up from what I’d accomplished since my last visit with the Buddha, feeling as if I’d graduated in some way. The time since I’d left the Center were long months, offering many deep spiritual lessons. I had this feeling of accomplishment overtake me, as if I’d gone somewhere, done something and come back to celebrate.
Back to the breath I returned for some mindfulness meditation. I remained in my downward gaze until I felt an urge to look up. The Buddha’s piercing green eyes looked directly back at me, shooting holes in my consciousness. These familiar eyes were the exact same eyes as the last time I saw them. The statue had not moved in three months. A tremor-like wave flowed through me as I experienced a feeling of timelessness. The Buddha was sitting there the whole time, never moving. It went all the way to enlightenment without moving. Why did I feel the need to do this and that to accomplish this and that during those three months. It all became so clear. My “celebratory” Stupa visit was merely an expression of my goal-oriented behaviour. The Buddha’s solid meditative presence kept me honest about my circuitous path to spiritual seeking. I’d gone full circle. I left and did all kinds of spiritual practice while living in spiritual community, thinking I’d accomplished something, but really I didn’t need to go anywhere or do anything other than sit. The Buddha didn’t feel the need to do anything different, it just sat.
During that Stupa sit I experienced a feeling of time unlike any other I’d previously had. The present moment was redefined for me. I no longer only viewed presence as an engagement with what life has to truly offer in the moment, but saw that what life offers is just not really necessary. The feeling of timelessness viscerally proved a lesson through my body to my conscious mind that I could let every need fall away. Rather than a flow of present moments connected in a linear timeline, it was as if the individual points of each present moment were felt individually, making time feel immaterial and pointless.
Time retains purpose only in relation to our need to accomplish. If we have nothing to accomplish there is really no need for time. What the Buddha was really teaching me was that it did not feel the need to accomplish anything since it realized that its perfection lies within. It didn’t need to “achieve” by doing such and such, it just existed in the state of being. While I was running about doing things for three months, there it was, completely still and not moving a single inch.
Looks like Thich Nhat Hanh hit it right on when he creatively contorted the popular saying: “Don’t just do something, sit there.”