I have a broken Buddha statue sitting on my desk. It feels like a perfect metaphor for where my life was in 2020.
I keep my Buddha on my desk in front of me, surrounded by other decorations – or “desk-orations”, as I call them – which encourage me when I write.
Most of my “desk-orations” are gifts from friends and family, and I keep them around purely because I think they’re interesting.
I like the Buddha because, to me, it represents two concepts. One is the zen state – an effortless state of being that arises organically from within and hinges on nothing other than your willingness to sink into it.
Spiritual teachers tell us that zen is what we naturally are. It is our original state of consciousness and lives outside of the mind and ego with which we identify.
No stringent meditation routine will get us there because it is not a destination. By attempting to reach for it or cultivate it, we’re propelled further away from it. All we can do is settle into it and let it reveal itself.
As hard as I might try to describe this, words will never do it justice.
I utilize the zen state for mostly selfish reasons. I’ll go into zen mode in the middle of a tough workout when my body aches and I want to quit. It is a state that transcends the deep discomfort I feel at the time.
I can become nothing, and in doing so, detach from the pain and struggle. It doesn’t last long, but it helps me push a little harder.
The Buddha also represents someone who’s dedicated to their life’s work. They’ve given their life to the work they chose, and even when it’s difficult, they stay true to who they are.
They almost never give up, and on the rare occasion they do, they make sure to get right back on their path.
This is the archetype I look up to, and for years, it’s the kind of person I’ve aspired to be. Last year, I drifted so far from this aspiration that I barely recognized it. We all change as time goes on, but some of my changes were not in my best interest.
This is where my enlightened pal’s injury comes into the story.
I have two cats. Any cat owner will tell you they can be wild, but my two are lovable and mostly calm. This doesn’t keep them from getting into trouble now and then, and my Buddha was one of their unfortunate victims.
One of my cats knocked my poor Buddha off the desk, and now, like a mafia victim, he has two broken knees. Since I’m a hippie who likes to think there is symbolism in everything, I chose to believe this was no coincidence.
My Buddha buddy was not just hurt because my cats are jerks. I think it was a sign that in some ways, I’d lost touch with the person I wanted to be.
For years I’ve had this idea that I can work hard and make this writing/blogging job into something real. I’ve wanted to dedicate my life to this path and become something akin to a Buddha for writing.
Not a Buddha in the sense that I’m enlightened or have mastered anything, but that I’m dedicated and living in service to the path I chose.
It’s been easier said than done.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had trouble staying committed. The cracks started to show in 2018, and since then, things have only gotten worse. The troubles peaked last year, making 2020 my worst year for being present in this community.
Instead of focusing on my goals, I’ve let distractions and bad habits consume my attention.
If the idea is to be like a Buddha on a path centered on writing, then I’m a broken Buddha. How fitting that this is what I look up at every time I sit down to write, reminding me that I have a lot of work to do to mend the holes I let form.
I’ve got to show up every day, do the work, and never quit pushing myself to be better. If one day I’m finally where I want to be, then maybe I’ll fix my old Buddha.
It can cease to be a metaphor for how far I’d fallen, and instead, represent that even broken people have a chance at redemption. I can mend the shattered pieces of my life to become what I want to be, and so can you.
If anyone is in the same boat, please know you are not alone. We may be broken, but we don’t have to stay that way. We can always transcend a difficult past and make up for our regrettable mistakes.
The key is to never stop being true to who we are and to keep reminding ourselves of what we want out of life.
For me, the hard part will be to take my own advice and get to work. It will be painful, but the heavy lifting starts now.
I have my crazy cats and my broken Buddha to thank for the motivation to get away from all the nonsense and focus on what’s important. With that in mind, I will spend 2021 writing and contributing to this deeply fractured yet wonderful community of like-minded friends.