Another day, another rainbow...

This beautiful Sunday morning is the first full day of the See the Light photography workshop at Hui Ho’olana in Hawaii, and it is my first full day as a student in a retreat center where I have taught for the past 15 years. In fact, the Embodied Mindfulness workshop co-led by me and Donna Martin preceded this workshop by a week, so I have been on the island of Molokai for just over two weeks. As people were rousing to begin their day and as the sun peeked over the mountains behind us, a light mist began to fall in the morning sunshine. This combination of mist and sun means one thing to photographers – there is a rainbow somewhere!

And, indeed, there was, just where the morning rainbows always appear, beautifully and predictably when the conditions are right. The lawn outside of the lodge looked like it had sprouted tripods and everyone looked for just the right spot as the rainbow came and went.


My initial response was, “another day, another rainbow,” as I drank my tea and watched the excited newcomers get into position. This is how it goes, isn’t it? We grow accustomed to the amazement that is actually our LIFE! We make ordinary what is extraordinary and lose sight of the mystery as it appears right before our eyes. It is in the beginner’s mind that things appear new, fresh and NOW! This is certainly the teaching I offer all the time and I was receiving it back once again on this first day as a “student.” This was not “another day.” This was not “another rainbow.” This is IT!

Suzuki Roshi’s famous statement in the opening chapter of Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind:
“For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our ‘original mind’ includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few.”

And this is our path, to always remember beginner’s mind, to always remain curious and open to life, and to return to gratitude as the most essential nourishment. Erin and I were going to visit a friend a couple of days ago and we were a little early, so we decided to drive up the road a bit to look at the landscape. We eventually slowed and turned into the driveway at the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center in order to turn around. This is what stopped us in our tracks.


This is what is always available and always has the potential to bring us to a stop along the path. But, if we don’t take the time for the aimless drive, dropping our narrowly focused agenda, we can't truly stop and make the turn – the “backward step” as Dogen described it 800 years ago — we will never “see the light,” and there is always light. This is not just another day, and not just another rainbow. THIS IS IT!


Here are Dogen's words from his Fukanzazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen): “You should therefore cease from practice based on intellectual understanding, pursuing words and following after speech, and learn the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self. Body and mind of themselves will drop away, and your original face will be manifest. If you want to attain suchness, you should practice suchness without delay.”