Meditation I was sitting cross-legged one morning
in our sunny new meditation room
wondering if it would be okay
to invite our out-of-town guest
to Frank’s dinner party next weekend
when it occurred to me that I wasn’t really meditating at all.
In fact, I had never meditated in our sunny new meditation room.
I had just sat cross-legged now and then for 15 or 20 minutes
worrying about one thing or another,
how the world will endor what to get Alice for her birthday.
It would make more sense to rename the meditation room
our new exercise room
and to replace all the candles,
incense holders, and the little statues
with two ten-pound hand weights
and a towel in case I broke a sweat.
Then I pictured the new room
with nothing in it but a folded white towel,
and a pair of numbered hand weights –an image of such simplicity
that the sustaining of it
as I sat cross-legged under a tall window,
my palms open weightlessly on my bare knees,
made me wonder if I wasn’t actually,
meditating for a moment then and therein our former meditation room,
where the sun seemed to be brightening as it suffused with light the grain
in the planks of that room’s gleaming floor.
– Billy Collins –
The Rain in Portugal
Shoveling Snow with Buddha
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
– Billy Collins –
Click here to hear Billy Collins read with pianist George Winston.