"A Single Flower"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
Yesterday as I drove by a sleepy little “mini mart” convenience store near my house, I noticed that a long line of people were waiting to make their way into the store. I couldn’t imagine what was going on- at best only a handful of people might visit that little store every day, so what’s up with the long line waiting to get in?
Then I was suddenly struck with the realization that all those people were standing in line because they were all waiting to buy a ticket for the big “Power Ball” lottery.
It seems as if the whole nation has been infected with “lottery fever” – the prospect of winning a life-changing 1.5 billion dollars seems to have taken center-stage in the minds of many Americans. And even though the prospect of actually winning the lottery are so infinitesimally small as to be almost nonexistent, people are still willing to stand in long lines and pay out 10, 20 or 50 dollars (or even more) just to have a “shot at” a miracle that might happen, making them an overnight billionaire sensation.
As I think about it, the image of all those people standing in that line is a telling icon of life in today’s popular culture. So many people are always looking for something more, their eyes on the prize, searching for the bigger and the better, maybe even the biggest and the best, often unhappy or bored with their current lot in life.
I am reminded of something Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said:
In everyday life we are always looking for the right conditions
that we don’t yet have to make us happy,
and we ignore what is happening right in front of us.
We wait and hope for that magical moment,
always something in the future when everything will be as we want it to be,
forgetting that life is available only in the present moment.
I can certainly understand why someone would want to win a lottery, especially if they are poor or in need. And yet, when almost every single one of us longs for that big prize to change our present (sometimes miserable) lives, I think perhaps this signifies a spiritual malaise.
When we are always on the hunt for the big prize we fail to miss the prize already looking at us in the face in every moment of every day regardless of our lot in life.
As I think about it, I’m not at all sure I’d want to win the big lottery, my guess is this would open up a “Pandora’s Box” of problems. Instead what I really hope for in life is the clarity of vision to be able to see the beauty of life that is available to me in the present moment.
Every now and then I catch a glimpse of that beauty when I go to the coffee shop and see innocence in the smile of a tiny child, when I wake up in the morning and see a glint of sun reflecting in a dewdrop in my garden, in the tender touch my spouse or in the gleeful little giggle of our baby grandson.
When those things happen in my life, I believe I have already won the lottery.
There is a wisdom saying attributed to the Buddha:
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.
Many people across the country today are hoping to win the lottery so that their whole life will change – maybe all we need do is to see the miracle of a single flower.