Looking for what lights the soul on fire,
If you’re searching for something,
You’ve felt it before.
Return home, to the first hint of life beyond life.
Where this started is where it can end.
A soul that has sat before dozens of alters, upon countless zafus and zabutons
Only recognizes itself under the familiar Banyan Tree.
Here, nature meets nature in glorious remembrance.
When there were no sacred texts or sacred temples to guide me,
It was just sacred Gaia teaching me delightful silent secrets.
Enraptured by roots that rise and fall on the earth’s surface like ocean waves,
I make no attempt to produce the divine—
It is effortless awe in the orbit of the Banyan Tree.
Angels in the form of sunlit leaves dance above my head,
And heaven is closer than the clouds.
Vines and branches envelop me and put any shrine to shame.
Nature was my first religion.
Let the Banyan be my temple.
What it’s all about.
While traveling around Hawaii over the summer, I visited as many temples as I could, and on one of my last days on the islands, I decided to visit a Hindu temple on Kauai. I joined the morning puja, or worship service, where we chanted in Sanskrit, listened to bells, and rubbed holy ash, sandalwood paste and kumkum onto our faces. As much as I tried to give myself over to the soul of the rituals, I just wasn’t as moved as many of my fellow worshipers seemed to be. My confusion and disappointment drowned out the sounds of the chants.
But as soon as I walked outside, I found myself under a gigantic billowing Banyan tree. All of the awe that I had tried and failed to muster in the temple came rushing forth, and it was clear to me for the first time in years that my spirituality is and has always been the strongest in nature. No matter where my path takes me, that moment reminded me where it came from. The most wonderful temples I’ve ever seen are those of nature.
I am a pebble,
Fallen to the bottom of the river.
The river moves and breathes,
But I am still.
I watch the river,
For the river is my home,
And to live here in peace,
I must know its currents.
The currents bring joy,
And the currents bring pain,
But I dwell in the calm of the waters depths,
And watch from below with loving eyes.
What it’s all about.
This is the first poem I ever wrote, and it actually started as a mantra I was repeating to myself when I lived at Amaravati Monastery. I couldn’t stay focused on my breath and I thought I’d give mantra meditation a try.
The idea of likening meditation to a pebble on a river floor really struck me. Meditation allowed me to be in the river of life without getting tossed around by all the energy on the surface. I learned how to sink down to calmer waters and just watch life play out. Whenever I’m having an unfocused or frustrating meditation, I use this mantra to remind me that no matter what I’m feeling I can watch it from the bottom of the river.
I started by repeating the phrase “I am a pebble, fallen to the bottom of the river,” and as I meditated on the words, the poem just came together. By the end of my one-hour sit, I had created and memorized the whole thing.