Wiggly Dharma

Some folks still believe the world is flat. I am convinced the construction industry is in this camp. Right now I am passing by a site platted for new homes. The area is mostly basalt outcroppings—several hills made of stone. One of the hills is pock-marked by drilled holes filled with dynamite. A small sign warns: “Blasting Area, Keep Out!” I hear a loud “Wump” and the ground shakes. The hill is now a pile of boulders destined to be hauled away to a rock crusher. The rubble will be reduced to gravel and returned to the work site to create flat foundations.

I wonder about our need to make things flat and straighten out the world. When I am out hiking, flat trails are great, but I am more inspired by hills and mountains. Even my desert wanderings are filled with rises and dips. Nothing in nature is truly flat or straight. I remember a talk by Zen teacher Alan Watts in which he said, “The world is a great wiggly affair. Clouds are wiggly, waters are wiggly, plants are wiggly, mountains are wiggly, people are wiggly. But people are always trying to straighten things out.” What would it be like if so-called ‘civilized’ people built houses in cooperation with the land like indigenous humans? Our homes would be very wiggly—and we would be more attuned to our wiggly nature.

The Dharma is also wiggly. It is not flat or a straight line. There are mountains and valleys, soft wispy clouds and thunderheads, stillness and waves. The only way to realize the Dharma is to cease trying to straighten it. When we attempt to conceptually grasp what Buddha taught, it is like straightening out a world that wiggles. Not as pretty as nature—and definitely no fun.

Wiggles are fun. The winding, undulating path called Buddhism is a wonderful carnival ride created by nature. Sometimes the steepness takes our breath away. At other times, soft curves and quiet ripples smooth our ruffled feathers. Both are equally beneficial. So, the important thing to remember as we practice meditation, is to be okay with ups and downs and all possible varieties of wiggly experience. Being straight is only one very small part of being human.

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