On which side of your umbrella did you leave your shoes?
Do the small things of life with a relaxed awareness. When you are eating, eat totally--chew totally, taste totally, smell totally. Touch your bread, feel the texture. Smell the bread, smell the flavor. Chew it, let it dissolve into your being, and remain conscious--and you are meditating. And then meditation is not separate from life.
Whenever meditation is separate from life, something is wrong. It becomes life-negative. Then one starts thinking of going to a monastery or to a Himalayan cave. Then one wants to escape from life, because life seems to be a distraction from meditation.
Life is not a distraction, life is an occasion for meditation.
A disciple had come to see Ikkyu, his master. The disciple had been practicing for some time. It was raining, and as he went in, he left his shoes and umbrella outside.
After he paid his respects, the master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella.
Now, what kind of question...? You don't expect masters to ask such nonsense questions--you expect them to ask about God, about kundalini rising, chakras opening, lights happening in your head. You ask about such great things--occult, esoteric. But Ikkyu asked a very ordinary question. No Christian saint would have asked it, no Jain monk would have asked it, no Hindu swami would have asked it. It can be done only by one who is really with the Buddha, in the Buddha--who is really a buddha himself.
The master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella. Now, what do shoes and umbrellas have to do with spirituality? If the same question had been asked to you, you would have felt annoyed. What kind of question is this? But there is something immensely valuable in it. Had he asked about God, about your kundalini and chakras, that would have been nonsense, utterly meaningless. But this has meaning. The disciple could not remember--who bothers where you have put your shoes and on which side you have put your umbrella, to the right or to the left. Who bothers? Who pays so much attention to umbrellas? Who thinks of shoes? Who is so careful? But that was enough--the disciple was refused.
Ikkyu said, "Then go and meditate for seven years more."
"Seven years?" the disciple said. "Just for this small fault?"
Ikkyu said, "This is not a small fault. Faults are not small or big--you are just not yet living meditatively, that's all. Go back, meditate for seven years more, and come again."
This is the essential message:
Be careful, careful of everything. And don't make any distinction between things, that this is trivia and that is spiritual. It depends on you. Pay attention, be careful, and everything becomes spiritual. Don't pay attention, don't be careful, and everything becomes unspiritual.
Spirituality is imparted by you, it is your gift to the world.
When a master like Ikkyu touches his umbrella, the umbrella is as divine as anything can be. Meditative energy is alchemical. It transforms the base metal into gold; it goes on transforming the baser into the higher.
At the ultimate peak, everything is divine. This very world is the paradise, and this very body the buddha.
Now if you do not believe in Buddha I commend you for reading this far. Most people think "Oh Buddha, that's not God", and then stop reading. In reality the point of this blog has absolutely nothing to do with Buddha or God. It has to do with what side of the umbrella you lay your shoes. When Ikkyu asked the question he was merely trying to say if you do not live in totality you will miss many things. You grow up in life constant being told pay attention, pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to detail, stop and smell the roses. It's life's way of literally getting you to stop and be aware of everything. When you live in totality you miss nothing. You are always aware. How many of you can say when you drove from home to work that you remember the whole drive? I bet a lot of you will admit to not remembering sections of the drive and sort of blanking out. You were in automatic mode and you missed out on a lot!
I can not say that I live in totality just yet. I keep getting the message to do each and every thing in total awareness and one step at a time, but really I think while I was searching for inspiration I got a friendly wake up call from the universe. I have many things going on in life right now. I have my head over here, and over there, and way up in the clouds part of the time. Its just an escape! Get your head out of the clouds! Yes, literally GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS and be aware of what is happening around you and be an active part in it. Tonight I will not multi-task! I will move one step at a time giving each moment my total awareness! Why? Because some old Buddha man told me to? No, because life has ways of sending us messages and this is not the first time I have heard it. If I keep hearing it it must need to be addressed. Hey, and who knows! Maybe this message was meant for you as well!