The horizon is clear on the Oregon coast today. Blue sky meets a vast gray-green ocean without a perceptible dividing line. Terns fly inches above the surf as waves roll in, gently caressing the shore with foamy fingers. My bare feet clutch at the sand like they were naturally meant to be without shoes. Cold water tickles my toes, sending shivers of delight up my spine.
The lapping water reaches inland and recedes, leaving a line of seaweed, shells, and rounded stones. It is like an offering placed gently at my feet. This arouses the rockhound in me. I search for agates and other interesting geological specimens, following a meandering line left by the retreating surf. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of something out of place. It looks like a sea shell suspended slightly above the sand. As I reach down to pick up the shell, I see it is embedded in stone. It is a fossilized clam.
These fossils are fairly common on some of the beaches here, but the child in me is always gleefully surprised. After examining the fossil with curious eyes, I throw the specimen in my little plastic bag and continue searching. I find several agates and other fossils on this walk but, later in the day, I give them away. I offer some to be placed in a display at a state park visitor center for travelers to enjoy. I give other specimens to a friend who has never seen an ocean agate or fossilized crustacean.
It seems like this is the Dharma way—to give away something precious we might otherwise become attached to. We receive offerings and make our own offerings in return, just like ocean waves ebb and flow. This way everyone benefits … and we collect less stuff! In other words, offering is a method of purifying attachment—allowing for the graceful exchange of compassion and wonder.
Dharma teachings are never meant to be held tightly, lest they become burdensome beliefs. Better they slip through our fingers so others may catch a glimpse.