A bench and a mat

Last week I went out to join in with a local ‘mixed’ meditation group.  It being late when I got home, I left my meditation bench and zabuton in the back of my car.

The following day, having to transport some passengers unexpectedly, I took the equipment out and left it temporarily on the roof of my husband’s car which stands next to mine in the garage. And forgot all about it.

My husband rarely goes anywhere in the car, but, unusually, was taking his grandson to the train station that morning.  By sheer chance, I looked out of the bedroom window to watch them drive off and was horrified to see my meditation equipment still on the roof of his car!  I yelled out of the window but of course he couldn’t possibly have heard me.  So I rushed downstairs and jumped into my car in pursuit, (Follow that car!), thinking it would certainly have fallen off at one of the series of bends on our country lane.

Not a bit of it.  I reached the main road and, about 100 yards from the junction, there were my bench and zabuton lying in the middle of the road.  I stopped, put on my hazard lights and retrieved them. What a relief.  But the whole episode prompted some interesting thoughts.

I have had this bench and mat for nearly thirty years, having bought them in the days when Throsssel Hole Buddhist Abbey still made and sold such things.  Although mostly these days I sit on a chair, (old age, disease and death), they are still very precious to me.  And I treat them, as we treat, for instance, our kesas and our altar equipment, with respect and love.  So to see them lying in the middle of the highway was truly shocking.

Of course, my mind ran on, as it does, and I imagined how it would have been if they’d been run over by traffic, which had in fact clearly avoided them.  But one big truck would have wrecked them, smashed the bench and ground the mat into the mud.  How unbelievably fortunate that I happened to look out of my window, sentimentally really, to wave goodbye.  Because if I hadn’t, I might never have realised what had happened, and even been baffled and distressed by their apparent ‘disappearance’.  And would I ever have seen the mangled wreck on the road, or even identified it?

The whole episode reminded me of a trip we made years ago to Disney, and one of the rides which took us through various ‘scenarios’ (before plunging us over a precipice to certain, well almost certain… death).  One of these was some sort of desert scene, with sand and a smashed buddha statue.  Landscape, cinema, but I remember being shocked and actually offended at the time, that something that represented important beliefs for me was lying broken and used as part of a tourist experience.  

We invest objects with importance beyond their value.  And we need of course sometimes to be aware of that. Bells, gongs, incense, water have no magical properties; but how fortunate we are to have human brains which allow us to value things in different ways and to use objects and association to bring us back to what really matters to us.  A smashed bench would not, in the order of things, have been a huge tragedy, but the pain for me, because of all that I have associated with it, would have been very hard to bear.  

4 Replies to “A bench and a mat”

  1. Insightful post Chris. Reading your post reminded me of the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by historian Yuval Noah Harari, he argues that it is our ability to create narratives, attribute meaning and believe in our own creation what made us the dominant specie on the planet.

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