Reclamation: Holy Crap!

Two small lakes occupy space in the desert on the outskirts of Bend. They are a haven for waterfowl and associated wildlife. Ironically, they would not exist if it were not for our habit of flushing. These lakes are created through outflow from a municipal water treatment plant. I do not know the whole story of water reclamation, but I am impressed by the way we can offer an oasis for wildlife in the process of cleaning up our literal crap.

I am prone to see things symbolically, so these lakes mirror a profound possibility. In Vajrayana, the lotus represents our innate capability to transform the muck of our mental habits into something of great beauty. As I pass these wastewater lakes and see hundreds of ruddy ducks, buffleheads, lesser scaups, and Canada geese, I am heartened we humans can reclaim precious water from our sewage and support other beings in the process.

Reclamation is an essential part of our spiritual path. The tantrayana suggests we do not push away our unsavory, smelly, habits of mind but rather transform them into compassionate awareness. This is symbolically illustrated by the image of Padmasambhava who holds a staff (khatavanga) upon which three severed heads reside. They represent our attachment (desire), aversion (anger), and ignorance (delusion). He holds this staff close—similar to Jungian embracing of the shadow. In so doing, he liberates negative aspects into an expression of wisdom and compassion.

It is important to reclaim wisdom in the moment we have an urge to express our metaphorical crap. But that takes practice. As we settle our minds through meditation, we become more attuned to our habitual urges. We are more likely to notice when the movement of our thoughts may not be so helpful. Rather than pushing them away or indulging them, we occupy the middle path of Buddha and spend the energy of thought to be of benefit. We recognize and reclaim our innate wisdom and compassion. We know how to compost and fertilize, the skillful activity of nourishing others. Holy crap!

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