I do not know if I am part of an institutionalized system of belief or religion. That said, several times a week, I put on a robe and a weird little bib thingie that I invested hours of deliberate and directed stitching and chanting. In this get-up, I perform rituals with other people, who also are wearing robes and some have bibs too. Why am I still unsure if this is institutionalized? We didn't make it up!
Chogyam Trungpa wrote a book titled "Spiritual Materialism". It's a great book. He also said, "Zen is “the biggest joke that has ever been played in the spiritual realm. But it is a practical joke, very practical.”
He also said this:
Once we commit ourselves to the spiritual path, it is very painful and we are in for it. We have committed ourselves to the pain of exposing ourselves, of taking off our clothes, our skin, nerves, heart, brains, until we are exposed to the universe. Nothing will be left. It will be terrible, excruciating, but that is the way it is.
But back to that bib, because, for me, this object that I created with such intention - literally acknowledging with each stitch that we are all connected - is an object of fascination. In Japanese, it is called a rakusu. I always know where my rakusu is and I bring it with me whenever I travel. I touch it everyday. I made a very special case for it. Every time I put it on, I do a small ritual. Every time I take it off, I do a small ritual. It is just cotton cloth. It is steeped with meaning. Sometimes I mistakenly think I am important when I wear it. Every time I put it on, I remind myself that it means that I want to be helpful. And then I forget that, over and over.
What is it to have one thing - one handmade object - that means so much, made from so little? Eons, universes, lifetimes, inhalations and exhalations all concentrated in this one humble thing.
What is it?