My father used to coach our daughters on the way to score in basketball. "Bend your knees, eyes on the rim, follow through," he would say over and over again. They would shoot and shoot and shoot for hours in the driveway of my parents' home. Sometimes the ball went through the lace, and even more often, it bounced off the rim or backboard and sent them scurrying until they stood in their "spot" and tried again. Having played in college (Dad was a member of the 1941 Long Island University championship team that won the national championship at Madison Square Garden), his grandchildren trusted he knew his stuff on the court. On those summer evenings, they thought he was teaching them basketball, but he was really teaching them (as he did my siblings and me years before) his own form of meditation that would serve us all well.
Meditation, thought by some to be a uniquely Buddhist practice, comes in many guises. Buddhists do use meditation to transform themselves. It helps them move beyond the world's many distractions to find the true nature of things. Since it dates back thousands of years, and we continue to embrace it in different ways, it must work, right?
In fact, clinical evidence reports that mindfulness meditation, where a person focuses on the simple in and out of the breath, has many benefits. It is said to improve brain health and emotional control. It decreases stress, anxiety and depression and even reduces blood pressure. In fact, various types of meditation have gained in popularity in the U.S. and around the world, due to their health benefits.
I bring this up today, because we are in the middle of May, the month in which the Buddha's birthday is celebrated on different days and in different ways around the world. Since many meditation practices have their genesis in Buddhism, let's take a look at this legendary man...
Here a monk in Nepal lights candles in celebration of Buddha's birthday.
The Buddha was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama about 2600 years ago in Northern India, now known as Nepal. While many royals through the ages have been satisfied to enjoy their wealth and power, Siddhartha was deeply troubled by what he considered an unjust caste system and the harsh facts of birth, old age, sickness and death. In what must have been a deep personal crisis, he left the palace and spent six years on a spiritual quest. During that time he perfected his own meditation skills and gained insight into the interdependence of everything around him. We are told that during this time he realized that the key to life is detachment from material things and an acceptance of karma, a cycle that propels us to learn and grow and awaken. This was his "awakening," and he became known by his followers as Buddha (which is a Sanskrit word meaning "The Awakened One.")
Buddhist monks celebrate Buddha's Birthday with a parade in Asia.
His teachings are legendary and his followers are many after almost three millennia. At InfinityAngel.com, we have found Buddha, his teachings and the very concept of meditation to be keys to finding a centered life. And, we chose a product named for him, The Buddha Board
, as our first non-Infinity Angel product to represent. This enchanting "spiritual Etch-a-Sketch," as I like to describe it, reminds me of the day I first drew The Infinity Angel in the sand of Ogunquit Beach. You doodle, you write, you let your creativity flow...and you never know what will happen. And then it is gone.
The Buddha Board provides constant lessons about impermanence, about letting go of expectations and letting go of results. When the water dries on your Buddha Board, and you can't stop it, you have to simply remember your creation, because it is gone forever.
I wish I could see the first Infinity Angel I drew on Ogunquit Beach again, but the tides took her away. And, yet, she still inspires me to do things in her name and every time I hear how she helped someone, I am humbled. In her story, I wrote that she taught me in that moment to "focus, believe and let go."
Hmm...sounds a lot like, "bend your knees, eyes on the rim, follow through." Thanks, Dad. And thank you, Buddha, for communicating and inspiring millions of people since you left the palace. And, Happy Birthday, from people around the globe.