Infinite Thoughts

Thank you, Buddha.

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...
Buddha's Birthday in Nepal
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.")
Buddha's Birthday
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. 
Happy Birthday, Buddha.
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.

 

 

From an Etch-a-Sketch to a Buddha Board

I remember, as a little girl, playing with my dad on my Etch-a-Sketch. We would turn the two little knobs to create pictures and then shake the red box with its little screen up and down and the drawings would disappear. The power to remove drawings I didn't like and clearing the screen to start over seemed magical. Not even a pencil eraser was as easy at setting the start point again so cleanly.

It was difficult to control the lines on that screen and I liked making my "mistakes" quickly disappear. Infinity Angel on Etch a Sketch ExperienceHowever, when I finally turned the right and left knobs in just the right way to reveal something of which I was proud, it was difficult to make the decision to shake that box. I didn't want to lose that image, that moment, that experience of satisfaction...forever. With the Etch-a-Sketch, there was no way to make a copy of my creation. It would never be up on the refrigerator, put in a frame, set on my mom's dresser for all to enjoy. I would never see it again. Sometimes, when I was almost finished with my creation, a bump or move would start the disappearing process...no! no! no! Come back!

That was one of my first lessons about impermanence.

The same lesson was learned again and again at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, Massachusetts and Maine. I would create a sandcastle, a moat, a wall to protect my princess fortress. The tide was far away and I thought my miniature land was safe...but always more quickly than I expected...the water would return and dismantle my majestic creation, leaving only a memory.

Infinity Angel Shares Monks Creating a MandalaWhen my daughters were little, I learned of a group of Buddhist monks who were visiting greater Boston to share their skills and wisdom in meditation, chanting and the art of the mandala. We went and watched them meticulously create a sand mandala atop a low table, which measured six feel by six feet. It was mesmerizing to see them drop what seemed to be individual grains of sand to create the finest lines and most intricate shapes. The design was magnificent...detailed, beautiful, radiating  the most incredible colors. They worked on it for an entire day. We were there when they finished. And minutes later, they blew the image away, scattering the grains in every direction. I could feel the little girl in me with the Etch-a-Sketch yelling, "No...why did you do that? That was so beautiful!"

But that was the point. Nothing is permanent. Enjoy the beauty while it's here. Take stock of every moment and breathe. The only thing you can count on is right...now.

As a young mother in my thirties, I quietly explained this idea to Molly and Eliza as they watched with disbelief that these monks would be so silly to destroy their hard work just moments after we'd had the chance to go and see it up close. Maybe someone else hadn't had the chance to actually go up to the table yet, Molly suggested. That's life.

Infinity Angel on Ogunquit Beach

When I created the first Infinity Angel on Footbridge Beach in Ogunquit, more than a decade ago on a crisp, sunny morning, I didn't think about the tide coming up and how quickly this little angel would disappear. You'd think I'd learn! This time, as the water rushed in however, I emblazoned her visage on my brain. I experienced the moment.  And due to her simplicity and the message I heard inside my head, I was able to create her again and again, each time feeling more and more certain that she was supposed to help me and others with many lessons. One of the lessons is certainly the understanding of impermanence, as I can never draw her freehand the same way twice. 

The Buddha Board: An Etch-a-Sketch for Grown-ups!

I first encountered a Buddha Board several years after I'd drawn my first Infinity Angel on the beach. It beckoned me to pick up the paint brush, dip it in the water and draw something on the papery surface. I tried my hand creating my little angel, not knowing exactly what a Buddha Board would offer. There she was, in a bold, painterly black brush stroke. I'd cocked her halo a little dramatically in this rendition and before I could step back and really take her in...she started to disappear. Aaah...of course, a Buddha Board would offer the mandala experience once again, what other type of art medium would be named for the man who said, "You only lose what you cling to"?

The Infinity Angel on Buddha BoardDrawing on the Buddha Board felt so much like drawing on the sand on Ogunquit Beach that I chuckled. As it stands on its easel, with the water well filled and the brush at the ready, you are beckoned to try your hand at something, anything. Create. Do it. Have fun. If what you create is less than perfect, it will fade away. And if it is the most magnificent piece of art you've ever imagined, it will fade away just as quickly. Everything is equal in impermanence. Our Buddha Boards offer quite a unique meditation experience.

So, while we offer you many ways on our website to physically hold onto your Infinity Angel, we thought it was fitting to also offer Buddha Boards...a wonderful gift to share with a friend who understands the value of the moment. Or perhaps for someone who needs to learn what that's all about. Place your Buddha Board on a coffee table, kitchen counter, or the corner of your desk to remind you and others to take a chance, let go and create.

If you're like me, you need to regularly remind yourself that all of life is like a mandala. The most precious things (and even people) are fleeting and, still, our most memorable moments will stay forever in our minds. 

Enjoy this moment and thanks for reading,

 

Kelly McCoy
Creator of The Infinity Angel