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Live Wholeheartedly and Leave Not a Trace

“When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

Suzuki Roshi

I read this teaching by Suzuki Roshi in my early days as a Zen student, and it has been a guiding light for me ever since. 

There is no other moment in our lives to live but now, no other circumstance to awaken to, no other time to be of service…other than this very moment. We know this but we forget. 

Last month I befriended a young woman a wife and mother – who had recently lost both legs due to a virus. I asked her, “How have you made it through this tragedy? What has been the gift of this profound loss?” She responded, “The gift has been that living with pain, there is no more energy for the superficial. Judgment, dissatisfaction, and drama are gone from my life experience. I have zero energy for conditioning, for living my life through a false lens. I live each day in a more awake and tender state. I know now that I must live each day fully, as my heart and my illusions have been shattered.” 

Ideally we do not have to experience such tragedy to see clearly, but it is often the avalanche of impermanence that reminds us to ”let go” of that false lens.

Practice means showing up each day, with fierce compassion as our ally, to cultivate awareness of:

  • the immediacy of life…the impermanence of all the we hold closely to our hearts; 
  • our true nature and inherent interconnection with all beings; 
  • the impact of each and every action we take on the whole.

“To burn ourselves completely” means to show up fully to this moment, as it is and as we are. It means to surrender ourselves to consciousness or true nature, rather than remain caught in the bubble of small self, the story we tell ourselves, fear, and projection. It means to not sweat the small stuff but to meet the given circumstance in each moment with as much love and vibrant aliveness as we can. The task of bringing practice from the meditation cushion into every aspect of our lives is the opportunity to hone our  true nature, and to do so moment by moment.

This is not always an easy task, but it is the only sensible task for a heart that is on fire. Through practice, we understand that the power and impact of each action we take is what we leave with. This is the beauty of how one cultivates the bodhisattva spirit. This is the awareness that inspires us to show up, to whatever the task at hand is, “burning ourselves completely and leaving not a trace.”

Today, I invite you to reflect for yourself:

  • How wholeheartedly are you showing up to life? 
  • What most helps you to remember that THIS IS IT?
  • What helps you to remember, in the face of the small stuff, to drop it and give yourself wholeheartedly to the moment, the task at hand, or to the one you are with?
  • What helps you to see clearly that you might take the wise action that “leaves not a trace?”

I offer these reflections in lovingkindness,