The following is an Dharma Talk from January 2001 by our Founding Teacher, P’arang Geri Larkin. A “tiled floor” is mentioned because this was back when we were still over at the First UU Church on Cass Ave.
At Still Point we take our shoes off before we enter the meditation hall. It’s a bit of an irritation, because the tiled floor is cold inside the hall, and sometimes even a little bit dirty. But we do it any way, to show our respect for the room and to put less wear and tear on the floor. It doesn’t seem like a big deal either way, shoes/no shoes, but it is. It matters because it is a reminder that everything is precious, even cold dirty floors.
When I was in the seminary I spent a lot of time at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Chicago. At the time, we were renovating the building, which meant that I would go in and out of the building dozens of times in a day. Taking my shoes off got to be a pain. One time, at the end of a long day, I had to run back into the temple to get some paperwork for a contractor. I walked in, and instead of taking my shoes off, tiptoed into the room where the papers were. As karma would have it, my teacher was right there. He looked at me, looked at my shoes, and said, “P’arang, take off your shoes. I want to show you something.” Cringing, I followed him, prepared for a real dressing down. Instead he showed me a razor in his bathroom. “I have been using this razor for over twenty years. It has lasted because I take care of it. If you keep walking on the carpet with your shoes on we will need to replace it prematurely.”
He was right. At the beginning of every year, when we make resolutions to do better in various aspects of our lives, we sometimes overlook small actions that can have a huge impact. One is better caring for what we have. Like picking up chairs instead of sliding them over the floor. Or wiping off countertops so water doesn’t seep into crevices. Or taking our shoes off when we come inside.
So many Zen masters have said, “Be quick to do good” that I don’t even know who to credit with the quote. Maybe Dogen. What I do know is that we can all do better at this. I can wipe more counters, return phone calls sooner, sort the recycling more skillfully — just to name a few obvious shifts.
Spiritual effort always plays out in our everydays. It is fed by our attention to the details of our lives, and our caretaking of all of it. It is fed by our being quick to do good. Best of luck in this Year of the Dragon.