The Contest

Check out Ellen Sandbeck's papercuts of the Buddha on the Facebook page "A Buddha A Day." Choose your favorite image, then send a wonderful piece of your writing, one page or less, on any topic, to You may win the original papercut of your choice!

Winning entries will be posted on this page.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Winning Post from Mark Kreitzer

Lullaby, Don’t You Cry 
Mark Kreitzer ©

At the end of another day,
Your weary thoughts all drift away
You take your leave from all your cares,
Happy dreams will greet you there,

So lullaby, don’t you cry
Let me close your weary eyes
And I’ll be there by and by
When you come back home

Happy thoughts await you now
You don’t need to worry how
As your ears shut out the crowd,
Lay your head upon the clouds

So lullaby, don’t you cry
Let me close your weary eyes
And I’ll be there by and by
When you come back home

Winning entry from Diane Hellekson

For Ellen Sandbeck’s “A Buddha a Day”

I am not a woman of faith.

As a Lutheran child, I went through the motions; as an adolescent, I tried to find Jesus; and as an adult I’ve wanted a spiritual home. But the trouble with faith is that, like love, it only comes unbidden.

I’ve had fiery street-corner preachers tell me I was going to burn, and once I was brought to tears when a friend and Jehovah’s Witness said he heard the devil speaking though me (I had just expressed my belief in social change via political process). But my worst personal encounter with religion was with a Buddhist who briefly loved me.

He had the motto “Live as though events are dreams” posted near his front door, and a “Don’t believe everything you think” bumper sticker. He felt that figuratively burning the past was one way toward inner peace, and he seemed incapable of anger. I would ask questions about his faith, and sometimes he’d answer them. But while he wore his Buddhism on his sleeve, he also kept it close to his chest, pulling it out only occasionally like a membership card to an exclusive club. It seemed to give him an identity, a way to differentiate himself from others, and from me.

The night he left me, on a bitter New Year’s Eve, 250 miles north of home, I had my head on his lap as I confessed some of my hopes and fears, and thoughts on resolving them in the coming year. Rather than listening like a lover, his response was to offer a series of prescriptions. With clinical condescension, he told me what I “should” do. Embrace and engage difficult people in my life rather than protect myself from what felt like harm. Practice a particular daylong meditation at my father’s grave to release him-- but only after I had done some unspecified long-term preparations.

I had told him before that I felt like an unenlightened grasshopper around his faith, something he chided me for. Yet here he was suggesting something similar: that I needed to be shown how to approach my own life.  Never mind that his religion was not supposed to be evangelical; his message that night was that I could “correct” my New Year’s resolutions by following his Buddhist path.

In the wake of that, and some cruelty that followed, several people assured me that his behavior was in no way Buddhist. Yet when I noted bits of Buddhism popping up in the months that followed—in a conversation, a posting, an article—I was wary. This man had been so sure of his faith, and his certainty left me feeling so very wrong. If that was how Buddhism worked, it frightened me. I didn’t want ever feel the way I felt that night, judged and quietly belittled for my lack of faith.

So what I love about all these Buddhas of Ellen’s is that they don’t preach or judge; they guide by the gentlest of examples. Their woozy, contented glances; their hands like calm flowers in their laps; their feet, deep-rooted redwoods. In some of these peculiarly concrete paper cutouts, the Buddha closes his eyes, but still sees from his palms, his nipples, his soles: his whole body understands the world, accepts it, loves it.

I doubt I will ever be a Buddhist, or a devotee of any religion. The closest I get to faith these days is in yoga class, when I find myself standing solidly on one leg, my other arcing skyward, a supple reed in conversation with my hand—a feat I manage only because I fix my gaze on a sliver of light slipping through the edge of the window shade at the back of the room. Or at the end of class when I’m spent, in savasana, my arms and legs heavy on the ground, yet floating like so much energy. 

In those moments, my soul is bigger than my body, and it glimmers like the light behind a silhouette of a Buddha.

Diane Hellekson
10 May 2010