Though my thoughts are mired in the muck of what’s going on in the basement I managed to enjoy a spur-of-the-moment afternoon visit to downtown Washington D.C. over the weekend (which by the way, reaffirmed one of the great things about living here.). We hopped on the metro from a station not too far from our house and after all the necessary stops we were making our way into The Smithsonian’s Freer and Arthur M. Sackler galleries an hour later (https://www.freersackler.si.edu/)
I had no particular agenda other than to get out of my head. As we moved in unhurried fashion from room to room I felt the tension of the previous day over the issues with my son slowly ebb. The universe must have understood. As I moved into yet another room I came upon a wonderful little exhibit–The Secrets of the Lacquer Buddha– that somehow, even hours after I left the museum, quieted a lot of the anxiety simmering within. Naturally, it didn’t magically last, but the respite was lovely and I’m grateful for it.
The Secrets of The Lacquer Buddha exhibit unites the earliest Chinese lacquer Buddha sculptures known to exit. Apparently, these lacquer versions, dating from the late sixth century to the beginning of the seventh century, are extremely rare as most other sculptures were made of stone, metal or clay.
Another exhibit, Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia, was equally enchanting. There are more than two hundred objects of Tibetan Buddhist art, spanning two millennia in the exhibit. I was thoroughly mesmerized as I stood in The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. Flickering lamp lights and deep, sonorous sacred chants added to the experience. Honestly, if I had had my little red meditation pillow, I’m certain I could have stayed for hours. Just the thought of it as I type brings soothing calmness.
We were not able to spend hours here as dinner plans were in the works. For over an hour I was fascinated with the many Buddha works of arts, from tiny to towering and intimate altars too. Waves of calm seem to wash over me as I stood for longer than usual in front of a beautiful gold Buddha topped with striking cobalt blue. I couldn’t help but silently validate, despite the fact that I’m Catholic by upbringing, my relatively recent affinity for The Buddha. It began ten years ago and since I’ve been collecting, little Buddha statues (five to date). I bought my first one–a little happy Buddha– over eight years ago and immediately placed my little gem on my kitchen table. Since then, it has become my practice to rub his belly before each meal, invoking a moment of gratitude for the day. And yes, it’s quickly followed by “Bless us, O Lord! and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
As I struggle with the pain and disappointment over my son’s situation and what I must do, I naturally gravitate to the gentle, seemingly reassuring, images of The Buddha. It helps to quell my propensity to be negative and instead see the beauty that is everywhere. I think about letting go of expectations and accepting what is. It seems to me that as of late, it is a bitter pill washed down with a cup of failure. Perhaps a daily dose of Tibetan chants, Buddha love, and the Serenity Prayer, will guide me towards the serenity I need to accept what is.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.